Omnichannel outlook

The new Global Mall Omnichannel Retail Index report reveals how malls around the world are embracing online

Digital consultancy FitForCommerce has released the inaugural 2021 Mall Omnichannel Retail Index findings, creating a benchmark for how 60 global malls across 28 countries embrace – or in many cases fail to embrace – digital transformation.

Gary Burrows, managing director of malls and meeting places at FitForCommerce, says that despite digital innovation moving fast, malls around the world are slow to adapt to the technology that is revolutionising retail. As the pandemic brought new challenges to the mall landscape with increasing digital sales and more demanding customers, he says that malls have struggled to keep up.

“The pandemic has only advanced the demise of those malls that were already struggling,” says Burrows. “We live in an age where technology is driving innovation and consumer behaviour. Malls have been slow to adapt and evolve to the new merged digital and physical reality.”

In a bid to understand the industry position on digital technology, FitForCommerce launched the first global Mall Omnichannel Retail Index, discovering that most malls are far from delivering on what the consultancy firm has deemed table stakes functionality and best practices, with significant room for improvement.

Key findings from the report found that: only 12% of mall online parking maps highlight locations for click & collect or kerbside pickup; though 100% of malls have a presence on the web, only 38% have a mobile app; and only three malls in total offer store reservation or store spot holder technologies.

Suggestions for improvements in the report include: highlighting click and collects services, having a real-time parking map to make the parking experience easier, providing directory of all tenant services, personalising the retail experience with digital loyalty programs, and allowing shoppers to save their preferences such as clothing sizes and favourite stores.

Burrows says that the unfortunate reality is that most malls have under-invested in digital and omnichannel capabilities, and there remains enormous opportunity for improvement which malls must prioritise to remain viable and competitive.

“Malls still have a lot of work to do on the journey to meet customer expectations – and this benchmark only covers a few best practices from a long list of capabilities malls should focus on implementing or improving,” he says.

He says that, as the world begins to recover from more than a year of lockdowns and a decrease in sales and foot traffic, malls must take the time to ensure they remain relevant and exciting, and should be crafting personalised experiences that are tailored to meet ever-changing customer wants and needs is essential in today’s shopping environment.

“By implementing or improving some of the technologies and capabilities mentioned in this report, malls have the power of improving the customer experience. Malls cannot afford to fall behind any further, the industry must do better,” he concludes.

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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