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How Will Malls Stay Relevant In The Digital Age?



Tom McGee, the president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, recently shared his thoughts on the matter.
The demise of shopping malls and centers has been well-documented and speculated about for some time now. Some may close completely and fade into oblivion, while others are in need of substantial renovations in order to remain desirable destinations. Others will become strong candidates for redevelopment opportunities, and spring back to life as the centerpiece of modern mixed-use developments. Whichever category a specific mall or center falls into, the question remains the same. How can this location remain relevant in the digital age? 

Tom McGee, the president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, recently shared his thoughts on the matter, and has pinpointed three key areas that are crucial to a mall’s survival: offering unique experiences, a diverse tenant mix, and a willingness to embrace technology.

How Will Malls Stay Relevant In The Digital Age?

Malls that offer a reason to visit outside of the traditional functions of shopping and dining will be more well-positioned to attract today’s consumers. This can occur at the mall or center-wide level – think special appearances, things that are not able to be replicated online, and interactive attractions – or even at the individual retail-level – think hands-on experiences, high-level service, and in-store exclusives and promotions. For today’s consumer, the ability to see and touch is simply not enough to draw them to a location. Offering something that will engage them at the same time can transform locations that are suffering from poor foot traffic counts into desirable destinations.

On the tenant side, a diverse set of choices is key to attracting the interest of toady’s shoppers. The days of the behemoth anchor tenant that attracts visitors from miles around are quickly winding down, but some thriving malls are staying ahead of the curve. As opposed to locking up another huge retailer to fill all of the space once occupied by the anchor, that space can be divided into smaller shops that just may resonate. Additionally, grocery stores, fitness centers and medical offices continue to be attractive tenants as a draw for additional shoppers. Dining options, modern movie houses, and other entertainment options also remain solid ways to attract visitors.

Finally, technology needs to be thoroughly embraced to engage and attract visitors. Some of the more advanced malls are employing app-based technology to offer shoppers everything from valet parking, dining reservations, mall maps, concierge services, and even the ability to plan out their visit to the mall itself. Charging stations are entering the realm of must-have, as a shopper with a dead cell phone battery is likely to hurry through their tasks and exit as soon as possible. Technology can also further engage visitors by offering promotions and specials geared towards visitors, and can also help malls and retailers better understand their consumers through the collection of much sought after retail visitor data. 

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