I do most of my non-food shopping online and I think I might have made a mistake that’s all too common among business folks: I assumed I was just mirroring that habits of the public at large. I also figured that shopping malls would be on their last legs. After all, if you never have to leave your house to go shopping or stand in a checkout line while some whiny baby serenades you, why wouldn’t you choose to do that?
Not only am I way off base, but there is research that shows just how far wrong I am. Despite some fairly big gains with respect to share of market by online merchants, 95% or shopping still occurs offline. According to a recent Nielsen report, in the fourth quarter of 2012, 5.4% of retail sales came from online channels, up from 3.6% in Q1 2008. Big gains, a lot of dollars, but still a fraction of the retail world. Why do I think this might be of interest to you?
Other than media, there is no other sector of business so dramatically affected by the grown of digital than bricks and mortar retail. Since shopping malls have replaced the “downtown” in most places outside of major cities, they are sort of ground zero to feel the impact of this change. Yet although many of them are suffering through high vacancy rates and others (as shown in this Dead Mall site) are dead and gone, something else is happening that is instructive. As Nielsen found:
Malls are changing their focus and aren’t just places to buy things. They’re social centers, places for entertainment and employment hubs. They’re also transforming what consumers can expect from a shopping experience. The line between shopping, entertainment, and community building has blurred. This blending of experiences has created an opportunity for retail to strengthen social ties within communities looking for communal experiences.
In other words, “Malls” are now non-virtual commerce portals. I think they can go further. Imagine a “guy” mall, for example. Instead of Macy’s or Target as an anchor tenant, maybe it’s an indoor driving range, a shooting range, a bowling alley and a sports bar, surrounded by men’s shops, hardware stores, etc. Why not stretch the thinking a bit and develop that property next to one that’s female oriented. Combine each with an active social presence (Instagram and Pinterest will be very helpful here) and you’ve transformed the “mall” experience into something more akin to how people shop online.
We all need to think out of the box before they put our business in one to bury it. You with me?