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Case Analysis: Mall-nomics Decoded
Gigil should leave no stone unturned in reaching out to its potential mall customers
Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami
When Charles Darwin, penned down his historical theory on “survival of the fittest”, little did he know that his arguments transcends species, categories and centuries!
Yes, it is getting harder for brands to survive today, with an ever-changing landscape of consumers, retail, technology, et al and the interface between them all. Not only does a company have to focus on getting their brand story right, they have to ensure its accessibility, constant conversation and engagement with the target audience, keep the brand relevant to its customers and ensure foolproof brand delivery.
Amidst this, brands ensuring that they are present in a location that is aligned to where its customers are, is big pain point for them today. Some locations work, and some don’t and some need to be “worked with” keeping in mind the mall traffic dynamics.
For example, PVR, a brand akin to an anchor store in many malls, found being present inside Nirmal Lifestyle mall (opened in 2003 in Mulund, Mumbai) to be beneficial at least initially. With a great location and catchment, PVR became an end point in itself in the mall. But as soon as another mall opened in recent years in a nearby catchment, PVR’s revenues started getting affected. It decided to move out of the mall. However, in Bangalore, PVR is present in two malls sharing similar catchment (Whitefield), Phoenix and the upcoming VR mall. Both malls are positioned differently hence it works in the brand’s favour to be present, and customise its brand offerings as per the profile of the audience. So, while Phoenix mall allows them to reach a large general population in this suburb through basic theatre mix, the PVR in VR mall will boast of more Gold Class theatres, Imax.
This underscores how brands ultimately have to shoulder a sizeable chunk of responsibility for their fortunes inside a mall. One has to play to their strengths and hedge their bets on the location by making sure they are geared for doing what needs to be done to drive revenue and footfalls.
Fact is that if the brand you have is not up to the mark in terms of its imagery or product/service offering and maybe it has little to offer by way of differentiation, then yes, it is starting off on the wrong foot already and no amount of locational analysis can help this brand. On the contrary, if it is a brand that offers something of immense value to the customer, then it is value proposition and product/service design can be used as a leverage to offset the location issues, to some extent.
However, even then, it is all about how important this location, this catchment around the mall, is to Gigil. If the brand feels compelled to use this premises as a part of its channel mix, then it will have to know, that given the mall’s history, it will have to try harder to drive footfalls in, and ensure survival by constant stream of innovative promotions to trigger brand consideration.
Further, in deciding to be located inside a specific mall, the tenant brands tend to look at the track record of the developer, its credibility and marketing prowess. Besides, tenant mix, parking, accessibility and maintenance, a well thought out layout inside the mall, and its ability to allow the crowd to circulate evenly, is critical. To that extent, the Gigil team must understand the ramifications of its presence inside the mall and the caveats that go with such a basement location.
The Gigil team will need to have a clear proposition, taking into account mall catchment attributes, ideas on building a cohesive visibility programme inside the mall. Adding to this mix, a holistic customer experience programme will lead to a higher number of visits, yields per customer. Maximise the power of its retail signage, Gigil could create portable visibility points that can be placed in key points. It would have to also give the people a reason to find the store like promos with other like-minded brands, special makeup classes, hair tips for working women, handing out flyers in the parking area, et al. Gigil also should harness the power of digital mediums to drive local awareness, and use an interesting mix of tactics to drive sales.
All of this will come at a cost, so maybe it would make sense for Gigil to have some exit riders built into its approach towards presence inside this mall. Take the presence inside the mall as 12 -18 months pilot, do what they can to ensure its success and then decide for the long term. Their team will have to take into account, the experience the past brand had, at this very spot, use that insight to be better prepared, and have an aggressive approach towards building its own very pipeline of consumers, irrespective of what is happening around its location inside the mall.
Coming back to the mall story, Mahadev made this other point about how malls today are just not simple shopping destinations anymore. They are, in fact, a mix of retail brands, entertainment zones and food centres that offer a sanctuary of sorts to teenagers and families alike. Serving as a heart of their neighbourhood communities, malls are changing the role they play in people’s lives. Consumers visit malls today for experiences that transcend traditional shopping. New mall formats, multi-purpose spaces (offers opportunities to live, eat, shop, work), to comprehensive “shopper-tainment” destinations , and megamalls . The last space offers restaurants, nightclubs, bars, bookshops, gyms, salons, doctors, supermarkets, gardens, karaoke parlours, cinemas, art galleries etc. Case in point is the Grand Indonesia mall in Jakarta.
And to ensure longevity, some of the malls are quietly but surely rethinking the types of stores that consumers will respond to and rejigging their tenant mix. Anchor tenants remain important but there seems to be a renewed focus on a curated mix of smaller stores that add a sense of novelty to the mall offering. Some are making better use of temporary, flexible spaces that can accommodate different brands (across key segments) over time. Pop-up stores, flea markets, showroom spaces provide customers with something new. Tenant stores will have literally no power over these decisions and hence, within this context, they must consider, how the catchment around them is evolving and how best can they leverage that to their advantage.
Gigil’s decision to be inside Quartz, is not about that mall alone but also how will the brand ensure its survival against other destinations around it, that offer similar beauty services. At some point, they literally have to rethink their distribution strategy and rethink ways of attracting prospects inside the stores.
Every decision for Gigil, to be located in X mall or Y high-street, will need to be thoroughly vetted, and hence the brand could benefit with strategic inputs on the same. In this ever changing environment of consumer behaviour, mall economics, online retail realities, using one-shoe-fits-all approach may not work for Gigil.
StratNext rightly identified the evolving ecosystem that malls are today becoming. The driver is the throughput, and to that extent the tenant brand has a lot riding on its success inside the mall. Careful study for each mall, its traffic, its tenant mix, its peak and non-peak hours/days, experience of other tenant brands, in-depth interviews with the mall team (sales, front end), mystery shopping at select anchor /non-anchor stores, retail observations inside select key stores and points within the mall, all of these can arm Gigil with the kind of information that ensures its survival. Its management team can only do much when deciding on its next touchpoint.
Being present inside the mall is just one aspect of this plan, the real story tends to unfold once the salon has been set up. And by that time, with a sizeable investment already done in getting the salon ready, the brand can’t undo any of its locational disadvantages inside the mall. The store will have to start focussing all its efforts on driving awareness, trials and encouraging repeat purchase. Achieving local relevance, to the extent they are able to, Gigil will need to also get grounded in and familiar with the catchment there operating in. Everything from product/service mix to marketing and outreach ideas, will have to be arrived at before the store opens, so the brand gets to start on the right note.
It is time that its team recognise the enormity and criticality of the task facing them and leverage StratNext to help them in making their distribution forays successful.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.