In­dian Malls Go Hi-tech to Woo & Wow Shop­pers

Shopping Center News - - CONTENTS - – By Anuj Ke­jri­wal, MD & CEO, ANAROCK Retail

Num­bers sug­gest that con­sumer ex­pen­di­ture in In­dia will rise to US$ 3,600 bil­lion by 2020 from US$ 1,595 bil­lion in 2016. If mall op­er­a­tors and the re­tailer ten­ants get their strat­egy right, they are def­i­nitely poised for re­tain­ing and adding cus­tomers…

The e-com­merce rev­o­lu­tion and the up­surge in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are fun­da­men­tally trans­form­ing shop­pers’ ex­pec­ta­tions. This is trans­for­ma­tion also has a ma­jor bear­ing on the func­tion of brick-and-mor­tar stores, which now need to ren­der more use­ful and en­ter­tain­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences. As trends ad­vance glob­ally, mall op­er­a­tors are forced to re­think and re­strate­gize as to how they must de­sign, en­able and op­er­ate their phys­i­cal stores.

The Ad­vent of ‘Smart’ Stores

In to­day’s dig­i­tal era, phys­i­cal stores are get­ting ‘smarter’ by us­ing tech­nolo­gies like robotic in­tel­li­gence, an­a­lyt­i­cal data and con­sumer-cen­tric plat­forms such as Aug­mented Re­al­ity (AR) or Vir­tual Re­al­ity (VR) to at­tract cus­tomers and give them an im­pact­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

Num­bers sug­gest that con­sumer ex­pen­di­ture in In­dia will rise to US$ 3,600 bil­lion by 2020 from US$ 1,595 bil­lion in 2016. If mall op­er­a­tors and the re­tailer ten­ants get their strat­egy right, they are deͤnitely poised for re­tain­ing and adding cus­tomers. To­day, a tech-en­abled retail en­vi­ron­ment equals re­peat vis­its, in­creased foot­falls and higher sales.

Tech Adop­tion Done Right

A classic ex­am­ple of cre­at­ing a dif­fer­en­ti­ated ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers is seen in Kochi’s Lulu In­ter­na­tional mall, which num­bers among the largest malls in In­dia. This mall uses ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies Au­to­matic Num­ber Plate Recog­ni­tion (ANPR), geo-fenc­ing and dig­i­tal bea­con tech­nol­ogy to en­gage with mall vis­i­tors and in­form them of the lat­est pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties and deals avail­able in the mall.

Con­sumer-cen­tric tech plat­forms like AI (ar­tiͤ­cial in­tel­li­gence), AR (aug­mented re­al­ity) and VR (vir­tual re­al­ity) add sim­i­lar value by en­abling per­son­al­ized and en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

These tech­nolo­gies help in build­ing malls’ con­nec­tion with con­sumers via prod­uct vi­su­al­iza­tion, be­hav­iour analy­ses, com­mu­ni­ca­tion with cus­tomers, cre­at­ing real-time mer­chan­dis­ing, mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, and pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In­creas­ing de­mand for ex­pe­ri­en­tial retail cou­pled with the stores’ abil­ity to be dif­fer­ent is, in a way, fu­el­ing de­mand for new tech­nolo­gies. In fact, we may soon start see­ing holo­grams be­ing used in malls, in place of the tra­di­tional pro­mo­tional standees and flex boards. With the right kind of tech­nol­ogy, holo­grams can even go from be­ing mere static vi­su­als to in­ter­ac­tive ones.

Retail on the In­for­ma­tion High­way

Al­ready, we have at our dis­posal var­ied dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, from bots like Kik Bot Shop and WeChat to voice­ac­ti­vated AI agents like Google Now and Ama­zon’s Alexa. Mall op­er­a­tors and ten­ants need to lever­age these per­son­al­ized dig­i­tal ecolo­gies when shop­pers are ei­ther in or away from their cen­tres.

For in­stance, DLF Cy­ber Hub of­fers a unique AI-based ‘Phy­gi­tal’ ex­pe­ri­ence with Huber, a vir­tual concierge, Shop­pers can talk to Huber to ͤnd out about the next event, nav­i­gate through phys­i­cal space while adding to the ‘dis­cov­er­abil­ity’ of avail­able brands and ex­pe­ri­ences, re­serve a ta­ble, check out menus, etc. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Huber gets to know about the cus­tomer and can make per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions.

Also, with shop­pers’ mo­bile de­vices con­nect­ing to the mall’s Wi-Fi net­work, a new chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion has opened be­tween the mall op­er­a­tor, re­tailer and cus­tomers. This av­enue gives shop­pers rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion right from where to park the car to var­i­ous of­fers and en­tice­ments like dis­counts. This makes the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence more per­sonal, con­ve­nient and en­joy­able.

In­ter­est­ingly, to­day’s tech­savvy con­sumers are now open to shar­ing some per­sonal data via dig­i­tal in­ter­ac­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Ac­cen­ture, more than 50 per­cent of con­sumers are will­ing to di­vulge per­sonal in­for­ma­tion in re­turn for more cus­tom­ized of­fers.

Con­clu­sion

The retail world to­day is noth­ing short of an on­go­ing war of sorts - the war to win cus­tomers over from the com­pe­ti­tion and to re­tain them. As can be ex­pected in any war, there will be vic­tors and losers; and in the case of tech­nol­ogy adop­tion, it is no longer about the in-store use of in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies.

While the dom­i­nance of tech­nol­ogy is ex­plic­itly seen across modern brick-and­mor­tar stores, the win­ners will be those who can strike a bal­ance across mul­ti­ple plat­forms and cre­ate an omni-chan­nel for tech-savvy con­sumers.

Mall op­er­a­tors and re­tail­ers who are ag­ile enough to adapt and nav­i­gate their way through these changes will con­tinue to grow and thrive. And as we have seen in many other real estate ver­ti­cals, play­ers who are un­able to over­come their change re­sis­tance (and make the in­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy) will even­tu­ally lose out.

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