Grabbing the attention of today’s shoppers is challenging, and retailers are often looking for inspiration on ways to create a better retail experience through design and innovation.
During a recent business trip to the United Arab Emirates, I visited the world’s largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall, in search of inspiration. This mall is 12 million square feet of shopping and entertainment visited by over 80 million people per year.
I thought I had seen it all until I walked inside and truly experienced ‘shoppertainment’ – a makeshift term, which by definition, is a retail tactic to engage customers through an entertaining in-store shopping experience.
I was prepared to see global brands putting their best design foot forward, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of this mall and the level of attraction, entertainment and shopping experiences on offer.
As you approach the mall you are greeted by the Burj Khalifa building that towers 828 metres above the shopping mall. This amazing piece of architecture is the world’s tallest building, quite fitting given it is part of the world’s largest shopping mall.
As I entered the mall my eye was immediately drawn to a wall of glistening blue water. I soon realised I was staring at a giant indoor aquarium full of every colourful fish you could imagine. It was totally mesmerising and everyone around me was posing for photos like they would at any other tourist attraction in the city… but we were in a shopping mall?
Directly opposite the aquarium was my favourite store experience, Candylicious. A 12,000 square foot fairground masquerading as a candy store. It was like all my Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fantasies had come to life, with candy as far as the eye could see.
This is a very clever experiential retail concept, combining visual display, interior design, themed zones and live demonstrations to create a truly memorable experience for adults and children alike.
The attractions didn’t stop there. I also discovered an ice rink, waterfall, indoor theme park, 22-screen cinema, lake and fountain show, interactive lit floor and multiple food courts and restaurant precincts.
The new Sony Boutique was another highlight; immersive experiences appeared to be the key to this design. Customers were engaging with all parts of the store from the Playstation stage with digital wall, to the photographic display with stage sets and backdrops allowing customers to test each camera and lens.
As you can imagine rent costs in this mall are astronomical and this in itself has generated another type of innovation, store sizes. Flossy Style, an online shoe store, opted for a wall rather than a store to showcase their products, bringing their online offer to life in a physical sense.
I walked away from this trip truly inspired and reinvigorated by the endless possibilities. However, in a smaller retail market like New Zealand, we can’t all be part of a shopping mall experience quite like this - but what New Zealand retailers can do is think more experientially about retail design and experiences.
For example, involving fun, interactive elements to your store environment so that shoppers can be more hands-on with your products, will leave a much more lasting impression for them. Keep in mind this concept of shoppertainment as it could help distinguish your brand from the rest, spread the word, and build customer loyalty.
I encourage Kiwi retailers to push the boundaries, not to get complacent and explore new ways to reinvent themselves. Our industry is continuously evolving and retailers need to look at new customer experiences to ensure they can stay relevant in this fast growing market.
This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 739, August/September 2015.