The Shopping Mall as Customer Experience Barometer
Times are a changing. Shopping malls are changing with them and in the process are serving as sort of a customer experience barometer. It used to be that malls were simply warehouses for a variety of stores. Their main attraction was convenience. The big suburban malls tended to rely on the cornerstone department store as the big draw. The mall themselves were an experience improvement over the main street experience. In fact, the progression of the shopping mall experience follows exactly the path that Pine and Gilmore laid out in their HBR article “Welcome to the Experience Economy”. The experience progression may be summarised as follows:
Another factor that has pushed things in recent years is the advent of web based shopping. There is increasingly less need to visit a shop simply to buy things. As such malls need to be more than just warehouses of brick and mortar shops.
Many malls still have an experience based store or attraction as a key draw. The latest incarnation is for the malls themselves to be the attraction. Two forms of experience malls have taken shape. The first attempt to use the mall public spaces more than a transit of halls. This type might be exemplified by malls that are essentially amusement parks with shops scattered about. They take the Disney concept and apply it literally. Mall of America is a prime example with its Nickelodeon Universe, Sea Life aquariums, Mayo Clinic Mile and such. The same concept can be seen in a number of newer malls across the globe although perhaps on a smaller scale.
The second style of experience mall is less about the public space and more about the store selection themselves. This type of mall was recently profiled in a NY Times article “Malls’ New Pitch: Come for the Experience”. It describes how Glimcher Realty Plus is attempting to make its malls internet proof. The basic strategy is finding tenants that do more than just sell stuff. So there is less focus on the non-shop experience as in the first approach. The emphasis here is squarely on the shops. The experience is provided by the individual shops. The mall becomes the experience by virtue of its strategic selection of shops. Examples of shops that make the experience grade are: Make Meaning (a membership store where people make crafts, cakes and other things) and Drybar (a salon with no scissors, just stylists with blow-dryers), and Industrie Denim, a jeans store, that lets women study their rear view.
|Qaalfa Dibeehi is Chief Operating and Consulting Officer at of Beyond Philosophy one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Qaalfa is an international co-author of Customer Experience: Future Trends and Insights. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.
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