With malls and shopping centers once again opening up post COVID-19, many retailers are ecstatic with the potential of store shoppers coming back to roam around their real-life isles. However, it seems to be a slow burn since there does not seem to be an influx of customers coming in, let alone purchasing products. Is in-store retailing a thing of the past already?
Malls Starting to Open Their Doors to the Public
The store experience of real-life shopping was hit hard by the pandemic unfortunately. Lockdown forced people to stay at home, resulting in many brick-and-mortars having to close their doors. This happened due to the lack of income since customers stayed home or only went out for the essentials, such as groceries. Many stores could not even pay their full rent during the pandemic.
However, that time is slowly passing, with more malls and stores opening their doors once again to customers coming back. However, this may not have worked as fast as they’ve hoped. While some customers do not mind lining up outside the shops due to social distancing measures and space limitation, the number of buyers has still decreased. Malls took the biggest blow.
The thing is, many people still feel unsafe with the virus floating around. While they can apply for the COVID-19 vaccination, there is a long line to do so. People see malls as a luxury now. A lot of them would rather go to a one-stop-shop, pick up what they need, and leave. Malls do have a lot of variety, but they are far from a quick one-stop-shop. It takes a lot of time to get around them.
How Badly the Retailers Need Customers Back
A research paper called “The future of the mall” states that the percentage of weekly mall goers will decrease to about 12 percent, according to a survey they conducted. On the other hand, the document also shows that 78 percent believe that online shopping will only grow after the pandemic.
With these frightening numbers, it is no wonder malls are afraid if their customers will come back. They could lose their profits or end up not even meeting their bottom-line. This may result in them going bankrupt and shutting down. Plus, their employees will lose their jobs. Some brands may even completely go off the market unless they have a social media account or website that they can sell their products online.
While many stores have adapted to the shopping habits of online consumers, they may not lose their business, but they could lose their space in the mall/building. The digital world is a great place to shop, but it is not the same as real-world shops and malls. Retailers would want to keep their places open because that’s what they’re used to. They have put so much time, money, and effort in their businesses that they do not want to lose to the virus and go under. One can say that the stores that have gone online will continue using their website and updating it, but online and real life is not at all the same thing.
The Advantages of In-Store vs. Online Purchases
Shops and malls outside the digital sphere can still have advantages over online shopping. However, online shopping can offer:
- Direct delivery
- Shopping from home on a computer/mobile device
- Everything at your fingertips (if you know where to look)
- Easier to compare prices (with a lot of tabs open)
These are great points, but the customer experience is completely different. In-store shopping lets you discover something that you didn’t know existed before. Yes, online shopping mobile apps can make suggestions and bring up countless products and services when you search for something. On the other hand, one of the highlights of going to a mall or visiting different stores is window shopping.
This is where you can see something new and interesting. While you could find the same thing online, you would have to know where to look/what to type. Plus, malls and stores are outside of the house. Cabin fever is more real than ever before.
Malls, in particular, have other advantages. You can do other stuff aside from buying items — trying new food, having a cup of coffee, playing games if there is an arcade, meeting up with people (while still social distancing), people watching, random events that happen in malls as part of a promo, etc. Mobile phones do not let people touch and feel the items on the screen. This is also a big advantage of the real-life shopping experience. People often touch items while shopping to see how they would feel on the skin.
Excited to Go Back to Shopping? Safety First
In-store shopping and mall walking can offer a lot the digital world of online shopping can’t. The latter is great, and online shopping habits can be hard to break. There is simply a different feel when you go outside. However, to do so, you must be safe, mindful, and careful. You should:
- Check your temperature before leaving the house
- Keep social distancing
- Wear your mask all the time
- Not go to places with too many people (you can check out that full shop later)
- Be prepared to wait in lines if need be
- Sanitize your hands before going into the store, coming out of it, and after touching something
- Sit outside to drink coffee or eat if possible
- Be overall careful
Many people may be afraid of going to real-life stores, and that is fine. However, observing safety measures and being mindful should allow you to experience malls and stores outside of your home. Real-life shops give a different feeling that many people are lacking. They allow for random discovery and a small sense of “adventure.”