According to a new report from Credit Suisse, the American mall is dying. Despite the fact that there are now 1211 enclosed malls in the United States, the analysts at the global financial services company predict that 20-25% of them will shut their doors within five years.
There’s a number of factors that could cause the downfall of the retail mall. For starters, there’s an over saturation. In fact, the number of malls grew twice as fast as the U.S. population between 1970 and 2015. Also, people are spending more on experiences like having dinner with friends than they are on clothes and toys. In 2016, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than they did in grocery stores. And of course, there’s the continued rise of online shopping and retail giants like Amazon pulling in almost $136 billion in 2016 alone.
Despite that dreary outlook, there is hope. Retail stores and malls are looking at innovative ways to use Wi-Fi to better position themselves with customers.
First, teenagers aren’t just loitering around the mall. They are a financial force in the retail industry. Not only are they snapping selfies in the food court, they’re in the stores, posting to Instagram and making purchases. Consider these statistics:
- 21% of their annual budget or over $1000 is spent on clothes.
- 75% of teens are online via smartphone or tablet.
- 61% think shopping is a good way to bond with friends and family.
- 50% said photos on social media apps influence their retail choices.
- 36% said word-of-mouth influences their purchases.
Also, according to the study Impact of Store Networks and Wi-Fi on the Customer Experience, just the presence of Wi-Fi increased sales anywhere from 2% to 3.4%. While that doesn’t seem like much, imagine being a company that makes $100 million in sales. Well, now it’s $102 million. Who’s going to turn down $2 million? Plus, having access to a free network increased customer dwell time for 21% of stores that participated in the study. That leads to more sales revenue as well.
By providing Wi-Fi guest access through social media logins (like Facebook or Twitter), retailers and malls gain unbelievable access to customer data and contact information. Using these analytics, companies can provide a greater customer experience. Plus, with their contact information, they can send advertisements and coupons directly to customers’ email addresses and physical mailboxes.
And don’t forget the importance of loyalty programs. Using guess access logins, retailers can keep track of customer visits, rewarding them with mobile coupons and specials. But coupons don’t have to be reserved for repeat customers. New customers can receive discounts on their smartphones and tablets, too.
Last, Wi-Fi also helps retailers and malls keep track of foot traffic in their brick-and-mortar locations. This helps them determine dead zones with minimal traffic, allowing them to change things to encourage more customers to frequent that area. It also allows retailers to determine if long queues encourage customers to leave without completing their purchases. Knowing this will allow retailers to adopt floating cashiers who can check customers out anywhere in the store
If malls and other retailers want to survive in the age of Amazon, they have to adapt to the changing technologies and take advantage of everything that is possible with a Wi-Fi network.