A huge chunk of this year has been invested, unwillingly, into the global crisis. The country was locked for the first time this year, in the month of March, confining all of us within our concrete boxes. Although it felt strange to not step out of the house initially, with time, it transitioned into a newer normal. Yes, being able to spend all the extra time with our families helped foster bonds that were barely keeping up with our fast-paced lives. However, within these confinements, every process of our lives went digital. Right from banking & groceries to retail shopping & entertainment, with time, the need to step out of the house seemed to diminish. The number of Covid19 positive cases increased, and all the measures being taken to control its spread weren't impactful enough. All of this combined fueled into the fears of individuals to step out of their houses, let alone visit a shopping mall for a purchase that could be done online.
The paranoia has increased, and only increased, all these months, although the staffs of each & every malls are giving their 100% efforts to comply by all the government laid protocols for them, turning up the notch on sanitization of every inch of their malls & checking the temperatures of each consumer who walks in through the doors, there seems to be a mental block. Indeed, these new protocols will lead to newer consumer behavior patterns. Constant hand sanitizing, contactless human interactions, and social distancing within shops, have and will continue to fundamentally affect consumer's buying behaviors, adding another challenge to the plate of the retailers. Furthermore, this new mall experience does not go hand-in-hand with mall economics. Their worry has resulted in a severe drop in footfalls since malls are regarded as crowded places, even though the standard-operating procedures have now been modified to minimize virus transmission within the mall, their fear drives them away from the crowd.
While a great percentage of our community chooses to stay home, there are a greater proportion of individuals whose curiosity of trying the ‘new normal’ brings them to the mall. They are the kind that’ll take efforts to go to the mall, only to witness all the modifications done to secure the consumers & staff within the premises. Although, it is a good thing for people to slowly build their loyalty & trust onto the malls’ staff, but it’ll only prove to be beneficial over a long period of time. Which is why, at the moment, from an economic perspective, it is still not enough for these shopping centres to recover all that they’ve lost in the past months.
Malls are designed for us to go with our close friends & family, to take a tiny sabbatical from a stressful day at work, watch a good movie on a big screen, dine at favorite restaurants, maybe even shop for some clothing or electronics. However, the newer norms will demand constant alertness & attention from us, distracting us completely from the shopping process. Every minute you'll have questions like, "Did the salesman sanitize his hands?", "Why is that man wearing his mask incorrectly?", impacting greatly on consumer's mood. And this mood is directly proportional to the sales of retailers.
The ongoing global pandemic led a lot of us into the e-commerce world, where one wouldn't have to think twice before touching a piece of cloth and wondering the number of individuals who must've touched it before them. E-commerce allows for greater amounts of window shopping, with a much greater variety for consumers to choose from. However, they lack the concept of trials. The shopping experience is always incomplete without trying on the clothes, to ensure that they fit, unlike consumer's taking their best guess at sizes to place an order only to find that their 7 to 8 days' worth wait was for an item that doesn't fit.
While the brick & mortar stores may face difficult times during this 'ongoing Covid19 era', there is hope for a day to come that'll mark the beginning of the 'post Covid19 era.' The vaccine will be here, and normalcy will return to its original definition. It is our hope that the global efforts that are taken at the moment to contain the spread of the virus and soften its impact, are successful. It is true that the reality for retailers has been altered at the moment, but it is even more imperative for retailers to capture & analyze consumer behaviors to develop retailing strategies around them.
The author of this article is Mr Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall
Published as received