E-commerce versus retail: It's not that bad
Tim Jones, chief operating officer, Shopping Mall Division, Lals Group.
Online sales can help predict customer behaviour better but shopping at malls lets customers connect with the product in reality.
E-commerce offers a much larger variety of products online versus 'brick-and-mortar' stores, as well as the ease of selection, payment and delivery makes it a natural choice as the mode of shopping. Not to mention that products online are much cheaper as overhead costs of rent, salaries, maintenance, etc. are not added to the product. Hence, a typical online shopper will visit the store to only check out the product quality and choice.
However, even with e-commerce offering significant number of options, malls still play an integral part in the lives of the residents in the UAE. The topography of the country is such that malls happen to be weekend getaways and possibly the largest entertainment arenas due to which the growth of ecommerce, unlike other parts of the world, could be challenged. So, one can deduce that online shopping isn't going to replace actual visits to malls.
This can be attributed to the continuous state of innovation and adaptation that the malls are undergoing - adapting to a completely new audience. Sometimes it's the same consumer who has a new demand, mostly need-based. Malls are continuously transforming to understand and deliver the correct requirement and are offering more entertainment today than ever before to ensure that customers want to keep visiting them.
The actual challenge to malls is less from e-commerce and more from increase in gross leasable area due to increase in construction across the UAE.
To tackle this challenge, Arabian Center often channels to various media mix to maintain and increase visitor numbers. One such is cinema. With new releases comes the integration between online booking and mall visits. This can become a very handy tool to ensure larger audience footfall in the mall.
Next focus is on sales and discounts to ensure movement of stocks and rotation of consumers. Radio also plays a vital role and is being used very effectively to achieve high frequency and maximum reach. But the most effective form of marketing with highest conversion ratio is the SMS. With a direct hitting approach, Arabian Center has been able to attract visitors.
Least to say, online sales can help predict customer behaviour better but shopping at malls lets customers connect with the product in reality.
Dubai-based conglomerate Lals Group owns and operates some of the leading shopping malls in the UAE. Its Arabian Center is one of the fasting growing malls in Dubai. With close to 200 brands within the mall, it boasts some of the best international brands, cinema, fine dining restaurants, a Montessori nursery and much more.
Arabian Center has a target audience that includes Emiratis as well as expats from the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent. Located around 4km away from Dubai International Airport, it has grown to attract large audiences from the city as well as from the neighboring emirate of Sharjah.
Tim Jones is the chief operating officer, Shopping Mall Division at Lals Group.