E-shopping is the future but malls have a lot to say about that
Have you ever been in a situation where you need to buy a few things from the mall but you just don’t feel like going out?
You think of all the difficulties you may face on your way to the mall from getting stuck in traffic to finding a place to park your car and then perhaps standing in line at a cashier’s booth in a shop especially in times of sales.
So you decide to just go online and make your purchases from an endless number of websites.
It’s a very possible scenario. It may have probably happened to each and every one of us.
But would you consider doing this every time you need to buy a product? And is the actual shopping experience in danger?
E-commerce versus shopping malls
E-commerce has witnessed remarkable growth in the region.
Research data from global consultancy firm AT Kearney suggests that online sales in the UAE will be worth up to $10 billion by 2018.
But shopping malls in the emirate are certainly not standing still in the face of e-commerce’s growth.
Shopping malls today are offering much more than just a shopping experience. They are also a place for live events, cinema theaters and arcade games.
Dubai opened an indoor ski resort in 2005 in the Mall of the Emirates, which is considered the largest in the world, according to the Guinness World Records website, boasting a 400m slope.
According to The Telegraph “the new covered ski resort comes as part of a scheme dubbed Meydan One, also to include the world’s tallest residential tower at 711m (2,333ft), a dancing fountain sweeping up to 420m (1,378ft), a vast shopping centre, a 350-room hotel and a marina.”
The Dubai Mall, for instance, has a 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall. It is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world housing thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.
What else are shopping malls doing to enhance the shopping experience?
As malls rise and expand across the region — such as City Centre Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi, the Mall of Saudi in Riyadh, and the Mall of Oman in Muscat — retailers are investing in audiovisual technology to transform the in-store experience.
“Audiovisual innovations are the biggest game changers for transforming the atmospheric and spatial qualities for GCC Smart Cities and smart interiors. In interior design intangible material such as lighting, music, acoustics, and visual technology can combine to transform the identity of a place and its experience” said Dolli Daou, Director, Association of Professional Interior Designers in the UAE in statement.
Industry experts are saying that technology innovations are catalyzing the GCC’s retail growth to hit a record high of $313 bn by 2021.
“GCC malls are no longer only about shopping – with mall operators and retailers transforming malls into entertainment destinations,” said Hans J van den Berg, CEO, AudiCom Middle East and Africa.
Increasingly, GCC retailers are experimenting with in-store audio and music for enhancing the shopping experience in a 3D sound environment.
Indoor positioning system
Malls are using indoor positioning systems which allow visitors to navigate the place using GPS.
This helps compensate visitors for the simplicity in the shopping experience offered by e-commerce platforms which allow users to go through a full list of products with specifications in an easy way.
According to Retail Touch Points, an online publishing network for retail executives, the Dubai Mall has partnered with indoor positioning system (IPS) provider Senion to help its 80 million annual visitors navigate the 12.1 million-square-foot complex.
“The Mall has installed the Senion StepInside IPS, designed to provide GPS guidance for the shopping and entertainment destination. The IPS provides location services on mobile devices and real-time integration with the mall’s smartphone app, which connects visitors with special retail offers and information,” it said.
More malls are opening
Media statements report that there are currently many big malls in the pipeline in the UAE. These malls will start opening in the next two to three years, including Meydan One Mall and Dubai Hills at MBR City, the Deira Mall (on Deira Islands) and Nakheel Mall (on the Palm) from Nakheel, the retail clusters with Dubai Creek Harbour, and much more.
Also, there are the expansions happening at existing mega-malls due to an increase in spending by tourists in these places.
According to McKinsey, a management consulting firm, “innovative malls all over the world are incorporating value-added elements that attempt to recast the mall as the new downtown, including concerts, arts centers, spas, fitness clubs, and farmer’s markets, theme parks, museums, etc.”