In India, the festive season – which begins for almost all ethnicities around the month of September – is the time when consumers all over the country buy new clothes as well as white goods. During this time, many get their homes whitewashed, interiors re-done, and increase spends on theme-based household goods such as upholstery, furniture, electronic appliances, etc.
Aside from this, festivals in the country have always acted as catalysts in boosting the economy. For shopping centres in India, this festive quarter i.e. October to December is the most important time of the year business-wise. This year, however, COVID-19 has adversely impacted the retail and shopping centre industries, in turn affecting the way people celebrate festivals and special occasions.
However, as the pandemic continues and a vaccine still months away, the sentiments of home weary consumers are improving, with many of them eager to step out and shop – albeit with precautions.
“With the onset of the festive season, it becomes imperative to engage with consumers actively. It is crucial to communicate about the key offers and latest offerings at the mall with hygiene and safety protocols being of utmost importance. For example, we are focusing on celebrations and festive season at DLF Avenue and DLF Promenade with Bride Tribe campaigns respectively. We have carefully crafted campaigns that will mesmerise the customer and at the same time instil trust and reassure customer of DLF’s commitment to customer safety,” says Pushpa Bector, Executive Director, DLF Retail Malls.
“Engaging with customers ahead of festive season is really important to spark the spirit of vitality prevalent among the masses. This is an ideal time to connect with the local sentiment, reiterate the mall experience by bringing in the nostalgic factor. It also helps us build impulse to socialize, shop and dine-in. The vibrant and novel nature of festivals makes it an ideal time for communicating store launches and unveiling the arrival of Autumn-Winter collection,” adds Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Group.
The pandemic has altered – perhaps permanently – consumer shopping behaviour and expectations of safety and hygiene. People are no longer stepping out of their homes unless necessary. The braver consumers who want to visit stores, want to do so with the best of precautions, and then too, visit only once they feel safe. Their thoughts on touch and feel have taken a U-turn. In such scenario, retailers have turned to ‘Phygital’ retail and the entire discovery process is increasingly becoming digital. This is trend is evident as we see only serious buyers stepping into the mall and thus the conversion rates are highest.
“To maximise sales while keeping in mind the ‘New Normal’ of consumer shopping behaviour, we have started various services that bring the mall to apprehensive customers rather than expecting such customers to come to the mall. This new way of doing retail business integrates both the physical and digital worlds to enhance the shopping experience,” says Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited.
“Infiniti Mall is adopting both, traditional and digital mediums, to reach consumers ahead of the festive season. We are also planning to provide various attractive offers such as shop and win, etc., to incentivize customers to visit the mall,” adds Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall.
“This festive season, we will continue engage our audience on our social media platforms with shop and win, contests and virtual parties. We also have invited multiple bloggers to come and showcase the festive collection to our customers,” states Naviin Ibhrampurkar, Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications, Inorbit Malls.
“As we approach the festive week, the consumer spending will only go north and reach a peak a few days prior to the festival day. Viviana Mall being one of the leading brands, it has always been our endeavour to provide our consumers will an exciting shopping experience. We have been actively communicating with our customers across social media platforms. Especially after the lockdown has been lifted, we have been promoting mood building campaigns on multiple online and digital platforms. Daily, we have surprises in store for our lucky shoppers. Additionally, during the upcoming festive season, we are planning to give away gold coins as part of lucky draw gift every week. One lucky winner will drive home a car as a mega prize,” adds Rima Kirtikar, Chief Marketing Officer, Viviana Mall.
“We are engaging with customers through a digital first strategy to create maximum engagement. Social and digital marketing efforts to induce demand, requirement specific enquiries and connecting them to our online platform for shopping – creaticityonline.com and also help them to visit by appointment in a safe and hygienic environment at Creaticity are being implemented. Our special features like Look book marketing to create demand for a complete home look, design to build orders for customized solutions and product selection support are some unique features that are being implemented to engage with home makers,” says Mahesh. M, CEO, Creaticity resonating the same thoughts.
DLF is working on curating engaging and interactive content and campaigns through social media channels, print ads, OOH and influencer programs for consumers during this festive season. These will focus on latest trends, promotions at the malls and initiatives being taken to provide a safe and pleasurable shopping experience for them.
“Select CITYWALK is all set to welcome its visitors for the festive season. The coming of the festive season brings with it hope and renewal and better consumer sentiment. The shopping centre has always catered to customer’s safety and concerns for the utmost sanitization to make it as safe as possible for them to step out. For the coming festivities, considering real-time scenarios and requirements this festive season too will be special for our customers. We want to make sure that this pandemic doesn’t hold back any of us to celebrate the festivities. We plan to enhance the festivities with mall decor in a way where everyone can enjoy and be part of it. Mall décor attracts a lot of visitors to the mall and at the same time, it allows retailers to showcase themselves in the most creative forms by showcasing their new collections and launches,” says Yogeshwar Sharma, Executive Director & CEO, Select CITYWALK.
“Our focus is directed on emphasizing micro-market campaign in immediate vicinity, creating fresh campaigns for customer to drive them towards visiting malls. Promoting the deals and offers running in our mall via local influencers and communities. Retargeting the existing patrons via our databases and optimizing the social media platforms through geo-targeted campaigns,” adds Bansal.
Redefining Shopping Experience
The pandemic has encouraged shopping centres and brands to think beyond the regular and explore new opportunities to get closer to consumers. It has led to closer collaborations thus bridging the gap between customer and the mall.
“‘Inorbit at your doorstep’ was initiated first in Bengaluru on the occasion of Independence Day. We have been the first mall perhaps in the country to have executed this plan of taking the mall to customer’s doorstep. Till now we have activated residential societies in Bengaluru and Mumbai. We want to scale this initiative and we are exploring ways to see how we could do a pre-festive edition which gives customers a special preview of the festive collection.
Inorbit at your doorstep is nothing but taking the best brands (10-15 of them) in a miniature version (in form of a stall) with best merchandise to residential complexes in order to offer a safe and hassle free shopping experience to customers during this pandemic,” says Ibhrampurkar.
While online shopping has picked up steam, it cannot replace the experience of physical shopping. People still prefer to get a look and feel of the product before they buy something, and this cannot be offered by e-commerce. However, safety is an important criteria and hence brick-and-mortar malls have really equipped themselves to provide a safe, secure, and enhanced shopping experience.
“We are redefining our shopping experiences by adapting ourselves to the immediate needs of our consumers and situations. With contactless experience becoming the utmost priority, we have been at the forefront of adopting safety protocols and implementing technological advancements to ensure that consumers visiting the mall have a comfortable experience,” explains Bector.
“With our strategies being upgraded as per the visitor’s interest and convenience from time to time, our dedicated team at mall is leaving no stone unturned for creating not just safe but an exciting and engaging shopping experience for all,” says Bansal resonating the same thoughts.
“Changing market dynamics and cut-throat competition has integrated the offline and online world of shopping, making things convenient for customers and retailers in terms of buying, selecting, returning and exchanging. Our adoption to Phygital practices is an endeavour where customer retention is a favourable outcome as it opens the door to both kinds of consumers – the ones interested in visiting the malls and the others who enjoy scrolling and shopping,” he further adds.
COVID-19 has brought significant change across sectors, including mall and retail sectors, which is sure to bring about a complete transformation in the way everyone operates in their respective businesses.
What Lies Ahead
Malls are more than just shopping centres, they are entertainment destinations, a place where people come and engage together. For the economy and the retail industry in particular, festivals are an important growth driver. Festivals such as Diwali, Christmas, even wedding season holds key in bringing in more footfalls to shopping centres and retail outlets.
This year, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have impacted the demand. Nonetheless, there is an uptick in demand and shopping centres are bullish on the upcoming festive season that it will help to restore a substantial chunk of pre-COVID-19 demand.
“We are positive that people will come and visit malls during the festive season as they are extremely safe owing to the safety protocols in place. Moreover, the food courts, cinemas, drive-in theatre, shop and win offers, etc, will encourage people to spend time in the mall. We are expecting a 30-40 percent growth in footfall as compared to previous months post lockdown,” says Kumar.
“Across all our properties we have witnessed encouraging footfalls during the festive weekends. For instance, DLF Promenade footfall went up to 20,000 during October 2nd long weekend and at DLF Avenue footfalls went up to 10,000. We are hopeful that we will see an upward shift by engaging with our consumers and the demand will improve to 60-70 percent by this festive season,” states Bector resonating the same thoughts.
“We are definitely expecting increase in sales and engagement during festive season with our planned initiatives. As, they are customized as per the preferences and shopping behaviour of our valuable customers in immediate catchment. Our expectation is to achieve 85-90 percent consumption of the last festive season,” adds Bansal.
Growel’s 1O1 mall is expecting 80 percent of retail sales as compared to last festive season.
“Every initiative is guided by prognosis of expected consumer behaviour. We believe in a personal and focused engagement with our retailers and customers. Since we largely operate in experience-led categories such as home and F&B, we are committed to a concept of acquire and engage. We have constantly been working towards delivering better value to our retailers and customers to improve productivity for the mall, for the stores and helping customers with the right solution. Our conversions have shown a surge by over 40 percent year-on-year, upgraded ticket sizes by double-digit growth and repeat visits of 29 percent to our online platform,” concludes Mahesh. M.