Hey, you goin to the mall?
It wasn’t all that long ago when the mall was both the conspicuous consumption capital and social mecca of suburban culture. Pre-driver license teens would be dropped off by dutiful mom’s to begin evenings of food court courting. Heck, even zombies hung out there as in George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and then Kevin Smith’s Mallrat’s stuck a pin in the map defining its cultural epicenter.
But, as all elements of cultures go, the destination mall began to lose its luster. Online shopping started to eat away at the mall’s allure and the 2007/08 housing bust/recession completed the mall’s fade from glory. But all did not die and many of these superstructure marketplaces still exist and they are fighting for retail relevance.
With the upcoming Holiday season already in full “I want this” swing, finding an avenue of importance for malls is more critical than ever. Enter the strategic relevance of the customer experience. With malls shedding customers faster than a Golden Retriever sheds its mane; a laser-like focus is in order to get those automatic doors swinging open again.
The key tool is creativity and the ability to add a little risk to the formula, in fact, that’s the best prescription for approaching client experiences that beckon to a customer.
Start with a simple goal; how can we get more people back to the mall at Christmas. The season itself provides needed momentum just like the spinning of the earth helps a rocket get to space. So you have Christmas energy and you have a central location for all the parents looking for the legendary king of the season, Santa. With a visit and photo op on waiting to be checked off Holiday to do lists, malls are looking to shift the traditional experience. Many malls are ramping up the old sitting on Santa’s lap event. Here are a few of the ideas in play:
- At the New Jersey Short Hills Mall, kids get to help Santa load his sleigh through a fantastic electronic experience where pushing buttons and pulling levers move packages. They can choose reindeer routes and fill the sleigh with the needed magic.
- At the Simon Property Group, owners of a gazillion malls, you can reserve your photo time with the jolly old man himself and they have special times for those that want a photo of St. Nick with their pets.
- Some of the malls in the more tropical areas of our country like Florida have actually brought in snow and connected a real winter experience with a spectacular holiday light show, making their locations actual destinations!
The idea is that a refocus on the customer by providing experiences that get them in the door may also separate a few dollars from their wallets for the shop owners.
The client experience is the saving force in the separation and differentiation companies desperately search for. It should be high on your strategic wish list!