A shopping center (or mall, in the USA) is defined by Wikipedia as a place in which: “one or more buildings form a complex of shops representing merchandisers with interconnecting walkways that enable customers to walk from unit to unit.”
This definition doesn’t tell the full story, however, because shopping centers are not simply places where people go to shop. They are also places where individuals, friends and families go to meet, eat, relax and be entertained.
Thanks to the rise of online shopping, shopping centers and individual shops increasingly find themselves in a position where they are competing with digital stores offering lower prices, 24/7 access, and instant gratification. This isn’t news to the retail real estate sector, either. It’s been happening for years, as articles like “From Mall Madness to Sadness: Why Shopping Centers Will Soon Be Obsolete” and “How Online Shopping Is Cannibalising Mall Stores” indicate.
This is obviously a problem for shopping centers that need and want a steady stream of visitors to keep their centers busy and to ensure that shop owners, who pay rent and keep the center commercially viable, have enough foot traffic and sales opportunities to justify remaining in the center. What many people don’t realize is that this is also a problem for communities who rely on shopping centers as places to shop and to come together, especially in areas where a shopping center provides the only space or one of the few spaces where people can both shop and meet for miles around.
Turning the tide by offering experiences
Aside from having attractive shops that sell products that are relevant to the local community, shopping centers have to change their focus from being “places where people do their shopping and then leave” to welcoming spaces that that deliver “experiences” that attract visitors and encourage them to stay longer.
In an article by Times Live, trend analyst Dion Chang talks about how people’s attitudes are changing. He said:
“People no longer aspire to own things. We’re seeing a desire for stories, experiences and the creation of memories. Generation Z is looking for authentic, responsible and conscious experiences and want to engage with spaces. For them the experience trumps the product.”
And Chang isn’t the only analyst talking about the importance of experiences, or the behavioural shift. Our recent post, “Why experiences matter when it comes to attracting visitors”, talks about the craving for experiences in more detail.
Delivering experiences as well as opportunities to shop allows shopping centers to become destinations in their own right. If shopping centers offer the right experiences, people will visit centers to do their shopping then stay longer to enjoy the experiences on offer. Even if people have no specific need to shop, the right experiences can turn shopping centers into destinations, making the experience the reason for people to visit a shopping center in the first place.
What sort of experiences?
Most shopping centers already provide opportunities for people to enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal together. Some offer experiences like movie theaters. These are expected by most shoppers and are considered “the norm”, so shopping centers need to offer new, exciting and different experiences.
For example, in South Africa’s Greenstone Mall in Johannesburg, offers traditional shopping, a number of restaurants and cafes to meet every price point, cinemas, a games arcade, bowling, a trampoline park and they regularly arrange art exhibitions and themed, seasonal events in-center Visitors have at least 7 possible reasons to visit the mall, most of which involve experiencing something: meeting friends and family for a meal or a chat, sharing a movie, taking children to an arcade or trampoline park, playing tenpin bowling together, and of course, shopping. Many people take advantage of multiple aspects of the visit – they shop, watch a movie and have lunch together, for example – and this means that once people are at the center, they are likely to stay longer.
The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai has an in-house ski resort and snow park; Madrid’s Xanadu mall offers a snow zone where visitors can ski all year round; Istanbul’s Cevahir mall in Turkey features a roller coaster; and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall has an ice rink, aquarium, theme park, mini-golf course, a Bitcoin ATM and 20,000 square-meter World Waterpark featuring the world’s largest indoor wave pool.
All offer much more than shopping. They offer experiences.
The challenge is that many of these experiences are time-consuming and costly to implement, but there is one experience that shopping centers can offer that attracts visitors, makes them stay longer and gets people sharing their experiences online, and that’s experience lighting.
Experience lighting: new experiences throughout the year
Think for a moment of the holiday season, and of Christmas and New Year in particular. Shopping centers large and small invest in lights to make their center the most appealing for people to visit. This is good example of experience lighting and of how it can help to increase foot traffic to centers, and most centers will be familiar with the draw of festive lighting and decoration over the holiday season.
Experience lighting isn’t simply for Christmas, however. It’s possible to use experience lighting in different ways throughout the year to attract visitors simply to see the lights, or to say longer because of the lights. And one of the wonderful aspects of experience lighting is that lighting installations can be tied into seasonal celebrations, or they can represent culturally relevant themes, or they can be used to run shopping center specific campaigns and events.
Shopping centers can choose to change their lighting displays throughout the year to keep their center fresh and attractive, or they can choose an iconic lighting display that not only attracts visitors but that also acts as a photo point and a core element of their brand.
Is it time to turn your shopping center into a destination with experience lighting?
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a year-round iconic experience lighting installation, a themed lighting display, or a lighting extravaganza that changes with the seasons, we have ideas that can help you harness the power of people’s emotions and their desire for experiences.
Get in touch with us to talk about what experience lighting can do for your shopping center.