Retail design: Consumers want an experience

by Tania Wannenburg
retatil design consumers want an experience

Retail isn’t easy and it is ever-changing. To stay competitive, shopping centre design should assist in creating experiences for consumers.

Although South Africans are experiencing tough economic times, people still continue to shop. And even with the sixth highest number of shopping centres of any country in the world, there are still many opportunities for local retail development.

One of these, the mammoth Mall of Africa, which is the largest retail development being built in a single phase in Africa, has just opened. The construction of another landmark shopping centre, as part of the massive mixed-use development of the Fourways retail node, the largest retail node in the Southern Hemisphere, is also underway. An additional 90 000m² of retail space is being built and once linked with the current Fourways Mall, it will result in a 175 000m² shopping centre under one roof.

Gavin Tagg, managing director of Retail Network Service, says that while there are retail saturation and even cannibalisation in some markets, the emerging middle-class and growing urbanisation is what is driving retail demand in areas such as Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Attie Anderson, head of commercial property finance at FNB, adds that rural retail development further has the potential to bring convenient shopping to the masses, given that the rural market still remains largely underserviced. “Shoppers in these areas are often not affected by the current economic climate, as the majority of money spent on a monthly basis is cash, either from government grants or family members working in larger towns and cities,” he says.

Wherever a new shopping centre is being developed, market research is key to its success. Not only does it dictate the size of the shopping centre, the required merchandise categories, the spending habits of the market and the level of sales that can be achieved, but it also points at the kind of experience that shoppers are looking for, which in turn influences the architecture and design.

Consumer habits
The Broll Shopper Segmentation Report 2016, launched at the SACSC Research Conference held in April, has revealed that South African shoppers “are mall lovers in general”. The report describes them as egocentric shoppers who love to shop for new things, because they find it entertaining, fun and rewarding. These kind of shoppers need to be respected while they shop.

The difference, however, lies in the regions. While the Western Cape sees the highest proportion of weekly visits, shoppers there are classified as “shopaphobes” since they only shop because they have to, they limit their time spent shopping, everyone normally goes alone and sees shopping as a waste of time.

Gauteng has the classic egocentric shoppers, attracted by brand names ad new things. These shoppers keep abreast of fashion and trends, like to shop at exclusive boutiques and do it for the fun of it.

Shoppers in KwaZulu-Natal also love shopping, but lack money, so they are the real bargain hunters who always compare prices, look for promotions and discounts, and shop where prices are low.

Pull factors include shop variety and convenience as well as product variety, while free Wi-Fi is important, especially for males, and kids’ entertainment attracts young families. Overall, 67% still prefers traditional shopping above online shopping, but 46% of those believe that they will shop more online in future.

South Africans who took part in the survey were 60% female, and the majority fell into the 25-34 and 35-49 age groups.

It’s about the experience
Consumers are increasingly demanding different kinds of relationships with brands and organisations, according to a report on a United Kingdom (UK) Design Council course. Retail especially is an environment that is rapidly changing, and it is here that retailers need to keep the attention of modern, digitally-intuitive shoppers, and further excite and engage with them through interactive retail experiences.

One example of this is the Sephora Beauty TIP (Teach, Inspire, Play) Workshop, which brings online make-up tutorials to the store. The beauty retailer has launched this new digital marketing strategy that combines the physical and virtual retail experience in a concept store in San Francisco. The store was designed to host twelve make-up stations equipped with USB ports, an iPad and Wi-Fi, allowing retailer consultants to communicate with customers as beauty vloggers.

“Everything we do at shopping centres has to relate to consumers,” says Tagg. “We have to reinvent shopping centres and continue to do things better, serve consumers better and be responsible, to ensure shopping centres remain relevant. Retailing is no longer just about the product – it’s about entertainment, education, emotion, engagement and enlightenment.”

“Our shopping centres are the piazzas and markets of old. Even in our rapidly changing retail world, with the Internet and endless new technologies, they’re not going to disappear. People still want to experience, see and touch the things they buy,” he explains.

The essence of design-thinking for retail lies in enhancing relationships through creating a good experience for the customer and optimising engagement, in response to social and economic trends.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Retail Network Service, FNB, Broll and www.designindaba.com for the information given to write this article.

Eight trends for SA’s retail landscape
1.    Urbanisation – more and more people are moving to economic centres, driving a demand for retail infrastructure.
2.    Globalisation – international brands are increasingly entering the local market.
3.    Building retail brand trust and brand loyalty is more important than ever before.
4.    A desire for health, beauty and fitness, so people are spending more time and money on themselves.
5.    Social media is a big influencer that retailers must manage and take advantage of.
6.    Consumer expectations – people are exposed to much more than before, so their expectations are much higher.
7.    Personalisation over a mass market approach – customers want to feel special.
8.    Entertainment is a huge part of the customer experience at shopping centres.
Trends courtesy of Retail Network Service

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