People go to malls because of the experience. Source: Shutterstock

People go to malls because of the experience. Source: Shutterstock

E-commerce may offer better deals but malls will continue to thrive

SOUTHEAST Asia is home to thousands of malls. Malaysia is home to 700 malls, Indonesia has about 450, Singapore and Hong Kong have about 100 each. Thailand and the Philippines also boast of a great number of malls.

The reality, however, is that e-commerce is growing in prominence and reach across the region, with mall owners worldwide naturally growing concerned about future profitability.

E-commerce offers several benefits over traditional malls. Not only are products often cheaper online but they’re also easier to find and offer a more comfortable experience.

Further, given the road traffic (and congestion) in cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, shoppers tend to prefer shopping from home on a mobile device instead of driving down to a mall.

According to GoToMalls Co-Founder Bruno Zysman — mall owners and brands needn’t worry.

“While people like to debate about this a lot, the brick and mortar business is quite resilient. It won’t die, but brands need to be able to mold their offline offering to provide an exciting experience,” Zysman argues.

The French entrepreneur and technocrat moved to Indonesia nearly two decades ago and has gained a good understanding of the landscape in the country and the region.

He’s established businesses in Bali, Jakarta, and a technology center in Singapore that explore various areas of retail and payments technology.

Zysman believes that customers don’t come to malls for deals. If they want to shop for cheap, they go online.

In an age where 2-hour delivery and same-day delivery are widely offered by e-commerce giants across the world, malls need to understand that people don’t walk in looking for deals — mall-goers love the shopping experience.

Zyman’s GoToMalls is one offering that helps brands better engage with their customers via a digital platform, but they’re not the first or the last.

“GoToMalls’ mission is to reach online shoppers and facilitate an effective and efficient offline shopping experience and to improve user’s experience in store.”

The company believes that its offering will make consumers more interested in visiting malls and will provide retailers with the ability to optimize their offerings to encourage consumers to purchase their products and run their ad campaigns in a smart and powerful way.

The reality is that brands must first understand the importance and need to augment the experience they provide to customers that walk into their stores.

GoToMalls and similar offerings — including Lantern Media in Malaysia — help brands collect data on their customers and understand them better.

To Zysman’s point, although the leaders in the retail space constantly talk about using technology to bridge their online and offline presence and drive more traffic to stores by providing a better experience, that’s far from what is actually delivered.

“Brands — especially the small and mid-sized ones with a handful of stores to maybe a hundred stores — need to understand the value that partnering with a digital solution can provide.”

Back in 2017, GoToMalls was able to generate 28 million visits and 57,6 Millions of page views with more than 15,000 promotions and 5,000 events in Indonesia alone.

Although updated numbers aren’t available, there’s plenty of proof that malls won’t die — but survival will depend on the ability of brands to leverage technology to provide customers with a better experience.