Inside: Reviving mall economy – A marketing strategy to the rescue

Malls revive footfalls

We take a look at the various marketing strategies in the works as malls attempt to revive footfalls ahead of the upcoming festive season.

Under lockdown, malls were one of the most affected spaces in regards to business and the idea of leisure. In the pre-pandemic days, they would accommodate diverse groups of carefree people. Some shopping, others simply looking for a safe air-conditioned haven to relax in. With essentials becoming the key items to shop and people only moving out for emergent reasons, the multiple co-existing urban ecosystems of the malls have been hit. As cities are undergoing various phases of ‘unlock’, it has become imperative for malls to work on strategies to revive footfalls.

Upon talking to different malls managements, we found that most are eyeing the upcoming festive season as a time to revive these mini-economies and help their partner brands stand tall again.

They are continuously harping about the various safety measures in place.

Clothes and electronics are two categories of products malls are hoping to leverage to revive footfalls. As an incentive, they are willing to offer discounts, especially to those who are a part of their loyalty programs. Social media is helping them in attracting potential persons and keep the communication going.

We take a deep dive into the various marketing strategies being used by malls to revive footfalls, ensure customers about safety in their premises and to nudge them into spending more.

Viviana Mall

Before the mall re-opened, messages were sent out to Viviana Mall’s customer base in order to welcome them for a visit. A small video was also put out, detailing the various safety measures in place at the mall. “We were mentally preparing our customers on what to expect when they visit us. We sent this message multiple times, reassuring and welcoming them,” Rima Kirtikar, Chief Marketing Officer, Viviana Mall tells us.

In the mall, the team has tried to keep the communication bright and vibrant. This is done specifically to ensure that people are not overwhelmed by the measures and can go about their shopping considering these as a part of their life instead of something that is too serious and needs to be thought about constantly.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, Viviana Mall took all their on-ground activities to their digital platforms. This included their Saturday Live bands, Wednesday events for women and Tuesday food samplings and recipe curations. They arranged for a digital party for their customers on the completion of seven years. During the Ganpati festival, since the mall had not opened by then, they worked around a lot of activities online.

During the lockdown, the Viviana Mall team did multiple research with their customer base. They found multiple insights that helped them build their marketing strategy and communication: People were looking for a safe space to shop at and ease out in. They were looking for offers and incentives to visit the mall.

In response, Viviana Mall launched multiple offers and started giving shoppers extra points for every purchase under the mall loyalty programme. They have also started a shop and win contest, where customers can win electronics on a daily and weekly basis.

The team is also leveraging customer testimonials to nudge more to follow. This is an interesting strategy being used by malls to help revive footfalls. They did it, you can too!

“In our research, we found that electronics is something people have started to buy a lot. Mobiles, tablets, soundbar, printers, televisions were highest in demand due to work from home and school from home scenarios. So we thought, let’s give them these as return gifts (in a lucky draw) on shopping with us,” Kirtikar adds.

She further explains, “In time to come, we have thought about new campaigns around festive wear. Even though there are restrictions, people can still dress up. This will be a mood-building campaign.”

Nexus Malls

Is order to ensure effective communication that wasn’t hasty or pushy, Nexus Malls broke down their reopening process in three phases and worked on smaller campaigns to achieve various objectives. They were all aimed at gently nudging people towards visiting the malls in time to come, ultimately helping revive footfalls during the unlock phase.

Nishank Joshi, Chief Marketing Officer, Nexus Malls tells us how the first one focussed on Safety First, a campaign meant to build assurance. Then came Celebrating First, where patrons were asked to celebrate their firsts with the malls. Lastly, ‘Shop Big, Win Bigger’ was rolled out to reward shoppers for fulfilling their pent up demands.

In the first stage, social media was used to share animated videos and GIFs to help people understand what to expect in the new normal when they come back to the malls. The management also onboarded popular local influencers to do walk-throughs to help assure customers about safety.

For Celebrating First, Nexus Malls’ Happyness Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana created a video, asking people to celebrate the first things they do when they visit malls again after the lockdown. He stresses the importance of safety in his discourse, putting across the question to his fans, “Aap sabse pehle kya karenge?”

“Across various rounds of our research, we realised there would be a lot of pent up demand in the patrons once the malls reopen. ‘Shop Big, Win Bigger’ relies heavily on instant gratification for all those who shopped with us. In this phase too, social media influencers played a very critical role in amplifying the campaign for us,” Joshi tells us, explaining the campaign.

Going forward into the festive season, they plan to reintroduce their Fashion IP, #StyleHashtags. It is a fashion property where they have been curating multi-brand looks for the last three years, allowing retail partners to promote themselves online. They plan to partner with influencers online as well as promote collections offline with mannequin displays.

Inorbit Malls

Inorbit Malls undertook several marketing initiatives to regain and rebuild the trust of their customers. They invited popular city bloggers to visit the mall and explain the safety precautions being implemented on the premises. A radio campaign was run to promote the mall re-opening, announcing how Inorbit is #GharJaisaSafe.

“Our digital campaign, ‘First time in a long time’ aimed at creating excitement and awareness around the reopening of the malls, tapping into the people’s yearnings about being out again, shopping at a mall, eating out while being absolutely worry-free about hygiene and safety,” Naviin Ibhrampurkar, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Inorbit Malls tells us.

At the malls, decorations were key to making customers feel special. So, the malls were decorated according to the autumn-winter season. Occasions such as Independence Day were also leveraged similarly in decorations. Inorbit has also partnered with Zomato to introduce contactless dining at their food courts.

On digital, they announced a fashion sale campaign, offering 40 to 50% off on over 100 brands. The products were showcased on Instagram, along with prices, to attract customers to visit the mall and shop. A video calling facility was also introduced, wherein customers could shop through a video call and get good delivered home or opt for a self pick-up.

The Inorbit Virtual Party is a digital IP that was created on Instagram where prominent personalities, social media stars and celebrities went Live from the mall’s profile to engage with their audiences. Kickstarted on August 15, the mall invited social media star Nagma Mirajkar to host their first party, from inside Inorbit Malad. The Live included interactive quizzes and giveaways. It helps boost follower count as well as engagement.

Inorbit Kab Jayenge was another key initiative where social media content was leveraged to keep up the momentum. “For shopping malls, this is the time to explore new ways of engagement as customers evolve with the new normal. We are taking efforts to offer a safe shopping experience to our customers,” explains Ibhrampurkar.

Infiniti Mall

As a means to attract buyers, Infiniti Mall Malad took the route of discounts and offered a flat 60% sale. The response was decent, Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall tells us, adding that they are planning to run more such offers to drive people to the mall.

The team is also stepping up the experience with a huge LED Wall inside the mall and a Wifi Lounge. For Infiniti Andheri, they have a new experiential luxury food court in the works.

On social media, they have been highlighting offers as well as arranging for online engagement activities including live cookery shows, yoga sessions and makeover DIYs. The team is also nudging people to go visit a mall, giving them reasons to make new memories under #InfinitiCares.

Several engagement-centric posts are also being put up by the team. They are all themed around shopping, reminding people of the joy they felt due to the activity. “We will also soon launch musical events and are planning exclusive social media offers and virtual events which will have an on-ground connect for mall visitors,” Kumar tells us.

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Oberoi Mall

On social media, Oberoi Mall promotes brand-specific content, conducts contests and quizzes for engagement and helps followers stay aware of all the latest happenings at the mall. They incentivise activities and engagement with giveaways.

To combat the recent hit of the lockdown and its impact, they have been curating special videos demonstrating the various safety and security measures that are being taken at the mall.

“These videos provide us with a chance to build confidence in the minds of our patrons that they are being welcomed to a safe and secure shopping experience at Oberoi Mall,” Anuj Arora, General Manager, Oberoi Mall tells us. In the new normal, they will continue to execute a social media strategy that will focus more on ‘pull’ marketing than ‘push’.

The management is planning to go big in the upcoming festival season. Arora explains, “Given the fact that all our patrons have remained under lockdown for most of this year, we are bringing in the festive season early this year to beat those work from home blues and spread the cheer.”

Activities planned into a ‘Shop and Win’ contest, lucky draws, extra reward points for regular patrons and giveaways to add to the festive cheer.

Growel’s 1O1 Mall

Growel’s 1O1 Mall re-opened in August, after over four months of being shut due to the pandemic-led lockdown. It coincided with their 10th anniversary and hence, throughout the month, several giveaways, free parking tickets and gift vouchers were given out to customers. In September, the celebrations were extended with more offers, discount coupons and gift vouchers.

“We have introduced many new services including curbside pick-up facility for online ordering of products and food, Live shopping services via video calls and ‘Mall on Wheels’ where a selection of brands could be brought to housing societies,” Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer, Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited tells us. They operate Growel’s 1O1 Mall in the Kandivali suburb of Mumbai.

He stresses how the safety of customers will be their primary objective going forward and all promotions will be planned while keeping this in mind. Safety protocols laid by the authorities will be key to their communication all through this year.

To support and promote the state government’s decision to permit malls in Maharashtra to open, a short film, #MilteHainPhir, was released by Growel’s on social media. It was a means to reminisce the pre-pandemic cheer around the leisure of visiting a mall and to assure customers that this too shall pass.

“The film recalls experiences that resonate with most customers and their cheerful presence that would bring the mall alive. It was followed by a series of social media posts with a filmy take like ‘Hum Mask Pehen Chuke Sanam’, ‘Inteha Ho Gayi Intezaar Ki’ and more,” Dhanawade adds.

To keep the engagement going on social media, Growel’s gets followers to play Funbola, an online version of Tambola, via Live sessions on their Instagram and Facebook handles.

To sum up

From our discussions with various managements, we found a few patterns that were common across the pool as they all try to strengthen the ecosystem and revive footfalls and their respective malls:

  • Digital was key to malls for communicating safety measures.
  • Influencer marketing helped them put across the message effectively.
  • The upcoming festive season is key to the revival of mall economies.
  • A major part of their communication is going to be around safety.
  • Another key thing being communicated are discounts.
  • Fashion and electronics categories will be leveraged the most.
  • Social media will continue to be a key communication channel.
  • Contactless shopping will be an essential part of the new normal.