Westfield is Reinventing the U.S. Shopping Mall
Have you ever shopped on Main Street? In small towns and rural settlements, Main Street was the primary thoroughfare through many tight-knit communities. As families migrated to cities, shopping centers replaced Main Street and businesses sought ways of keeping potential customers engaged and shopping. To meet new demands, developers like the Westfield Corporation created shopping malls. The with stimulating spend zones had food courts and amusement areas keeping shoppers entranced. However, today’s customer is more likely to use a laptop or smartphone screen to view and purchase goods, leaving malls struggling to generate traffic. To address this new challenge, developers are expanding the shopping mall’s purpose.
Shopping and Customers have Changed
One of the greatest disruptions to the shopping mall model has been the internet, and the increased control shoppers have over the advertising they see. With computers, customers can research before going to a brick and mortar mall and finish their quest completely online. While this change is subtle, the lost foot traffic will close between 15 and 50 percent of existing shopping malls over the next decade. To keep traffic flowing, the owners & developers of malls have designed spaces resembling movie sets more than shopping malls, attempting to draw traffic from tourism. Unfortunately, it is hard for food courts and movie theaters to compete with shopping from home, but Westfield’s data-driven planning has revealed the next step in shopping experiences. They understand the new, digital shopper.
The Future is Digital
Westfield and other developers are adding technology to the shopping experience with apps linking consumers to their favorite shops, inside mall websites. According to Peter Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield: “The reason online sales are rising faster than physical sales is because the online retailer has all of your data. They send you information about stuff you actually want to buy whereas the physical retailer does not have the same information about their customer. That is going to change the nature of our business and the way we interact with our customers. We need to start collaborating with our retailers, their brands and tech companies and all of those who touch your shopping journey.”
Instead of enclosed malls dedicated to shopping, people will find city centers or outdoor storefronts with public service kiosks and a mixture of business types including personal service providers, banks and doctors. This new main street-like model uses events such as concerts and festivals, to lure people to the brick and mortar shops. To meet the challenge, mall purveyors may go beyond evening concerts and art exhibitions with spaces dedicated to big-screen gaming and sporting events. With hundreds of malls destined to close each year, purveyors need new ways to generate the traffic that creates sales. The city center’s small town atmosphere may be the next step in shopping center design. In the end, shopping’s future success may be a storefront on Main Street.