Shopping malls are losing money, closing stores, and struggling to survive, but thanks to America’s largest generation, there could be good news. Digital, tech-loving millennials are heading to the mall and bringing their $600 billion in purchasing power with them. Since many millennials have indicated they prefer shopping at the mall, retailers and mall owners need to figure out the right formula to keep them—and other generations—coming back.
To do that, mall retailers need to think and act like millennials. Connect with them on their mobile devices. Engage them through social media. Text deals and promotions—after all, they check their phones around 45 times a day. And, although they may be digital natives, millennials still like to touch, feel, and try out products in brick-and-mortar stores.
This generation grew up cruising the mall while texting on their flip-phones. They know the best of both worlds (pre- and post-internet), and they value experiences that are authentic and nostalgic—with a futuristic, techy spin.
Today’s malls will need more than shops and a food court to keep millennials coming back. Newcomers like Bandier—a hybrid store with a lounge, fitness studio, and retail space—are spurring traditional brick-and-mortar stores and retailers to reinvent themselves. Next-generation malls are dynamic hubs that combine traditional stores and restaurants with modern amenities like indoor amusement parks, aquariums, and virtual reality rides. These “experiential malls” share one common thread: they treat the shopper experience as the top priority. Mark Treschl, President, CTO and co-founder of OpinionLab, says:
“Shopping centers of tomorrow won’t just be built around the transaction, but focused on creating an experience — they’ll be destinations for discovery, experimentation and entertainment. Most will take the form of open-air, mixed-use developments that blend innovative retail concepts and lifestyle amenities such as high-end restaurants, health clubs, green spaces and outdoor venues. Real estate developers are already evolving in this direction, recognizing that by creating a welcoming setting where people can congregate, shop, dine and be entertained, they’ll stay longer and spend more.”
For an even more millennial-centric experience, mall owners should emphasize convenience and communication. Simon Property Group installed phone chargers and created a social media campaign to keep millennial mall-goers powered up, connected, and engaged. Mall of America is very active on social media to attract digital natives and create a positive brand image.
Mall retailers have the opportunity to integrate their offerings into the omni-channel shopping experiences that millennials want—quick, social, user-friendly, and providing real value. Anything less will make them frustrated.
Victor Gruen—often referred to as the “father of the American shopping mall”—envisioned the mall as a central place for people to shop, eat, and pass the time. That hasn’t really changed. What has changed, however, is the shopper base, and the number of options available to them for browsing and buying, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. Now, it’s all about shopping malls striking the right balance within this integrated shopping ecosystem. Millennial shoppers’ expectations are greater, both online and offline, and if mall owners and retailers invest in delivering the right experiences, the customers—and the retailers—will get exactly what they want.millennials