How malls can attract more shoppers

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
Gina Acosta profile picture
Even amid the discussion of the “death of malls,” brick-and-mortar stores can influence those seeking a one-stop shopping destination with strategic updates and incentives.

Retailers should seize the opportunity to eliminate pain points when it comes to the brick and mortar shopping experience.

Results from a Valassis survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers classified as “regular mall shoppers” (i.e. those that have visited an indoor mall more than three times within the past year), reinforce the idea that brick-and-mortar stores and indoor shopping malls are struggling, with over half of respondents reporting they do most of their shopping online.

However, even amid the discussion of the “death of malls,” brick-and-mortar stores can influence those seeking a one-stop shopping destination with strategic updates and incentives.

There are a number of reasons consumers make the trek to a mall instead of shopping online. For instance, over 60 percent of respondents said they are more likely to shop for apparel in a mall as opposed to through an e-commerce channel. Given the opportunity to visit multiple retailers and complete several purchases in one location (which 39 percent found valuable), as well as try on and compare clothing options, this is a clear advantage malls have over online storefronts. The survey found mall shopping also offers other advantages including:

  • The social aspect of outings with family and friends (24 percent);
  • Convenience for quick gift purchases (20 percent);
  • A full-day experience that may include dining and entertainment (19 percent); and
  • The ability to compare prices and products across multiple stores (18 percent).

“While the retail industry is certainly being disrupted, brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere,” said Curtis Tingle, Chief Marketing Officer, Valassis. “However, they do need to evolve to meet modern shoppers’ expectations. Consumers want convenience, product options and incentives and all brick-and-mortar retailers, especially malls, need to understand their audience so they can provide an experience that makes visiting worthwhile. Whether that’s offering more discounts, valet parking or incorporating in-store technology, it’s all about catering to customers’ preferences and differentiating the in-store and online experiences.”

Valassis’ survey not only uncovered factors that drive shoppers to malls, but also those that steer them away. Respondents prefer shopping online – as opposed to at a mall – for: a broader range of product options/variations (40 percent); avoiding hectic crowds/parking (38 percent), not having to travel (24 percent) and reducing impulse purchases (16 percent). On the flip-side, these shoppers can be encouraged to visit indoor malls with:

  • More opportunities for savings/discounts (59 percent);
  • Better parking accommodations, such as valet (20 percent);
  • Events such as pop-up shops and giveaways (18 percent); and
  • Onsite grocery shopping options (17 percent).

To help malls adjust their strategies amid the changing retail landscape, additional survey insights include:

  • Technology is coming to indoor malls, but more can be done:
    • 24 percent of surveyed shoppers have experienced cashier-less checkout services and 20 percent have used digital wallets or payment systems in-store via apps.
    • Another 7 percent have interacted with digital/voice assistants and augmented or virtual reality experiences.
    • However, over half (51 percent) of respondents have yet to encounter innovative technologies, providing a ripe opportunity for retailers to attract new, curious audiences.
      • According to RetailMeNot, retailers are working to increase their use of technology, with 39 percent looking to employ voice-assisted shopping and 51 percent placing a bigger focus on offers/discounts exclusive to mobile app users.
  • Convenience is subjective:
    • Shoppers want convenience, but what it means to them varies. Some define it as:
      • Minimal wait time and easy check-out (25 percent);
      • Ability to receive the product sooner (21 percent);
      • Customer assistance / service (18 percent);
      • Option to return online purchases in-store (13 percent) or buy online and pick-up in-store (11 percent); and
      • Using mobile apps to redeem coupons and pay (11 percent).
  • Malls have room for improvement – the top three things consumers want to see more of when shopping at these locations:
    • Savings, coupons and deals;
    • Shorter lines and wait times; and
    • More access to in-store customer service reps.

Using Google Consumer Surveys, Valassis surveyed approximately 1,000 consumers who have been identified as “regular mall shoppers” (those that have visited a mall more than three times within the past year). For the purposes of this survey, a “mall” has been defined in the traditional sense of an indoor shopping center. All respondents were located in the United States and were over the age of 18. The survey was conducted in May 2018.