Why every brand should be connecting with customers in the Mall environment

Date of post: 2017-11-15

John Faia, GM of Mall Ads explains the reason why brands benefit from advertising within the
mall environment.

Malls are unique, ever-changing spaces that are more than the sum of their stores. According to McKinsey & Company, the mall landscape is about experiences as much as it is about shopping – and brands that understand this will be able to make their presence felt on the consumer’s path to purchase, tough trading conditions notwithstanding. This is because consumers love visiting malls – both tenant and public spaces are ‘feel-good’ zones, and physical stores trump online ones because we like to engage our senses.

According to Adweek, 85% of US consumers like to “touch and feel” items before buying them, which is good news for brands that believe they can add real value on the consumer’s journey.

Malls are the cornerstone of South Africa’s retail industry – there are now more than 2 000 of them in the country, with 75% largely concentrated in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. We have the 6th most shopping centres in the world and the retail and wholesale sectors are the 3rd largest contributors to GDP in the country. Developers continue to favour malls because the middle LSM market just keeps growing and the population as a whole has more disposable income. However, not all malls are created equal, and brands looking for exposure (like FMCG, apparel, services and luxury brands) should choose carefully – not just among malls, but among marketing opportunities within the mall environment.

Brands need to focus on experiential campaigns that resonate with and are relevant to a specific target market. If your brand can’t capture a client’s attention, it won’t achieve its goals. Here’s why.

Mapping the customer journey

Changing shopper trends determine the retail landscape – who shops where and for how long – and this in turn determines brand engagement. Malls offer a variety of media types that brand can engage with shoppers in a targeted fashion. Mapping the consumer journey begins outside the mall with advertising that ‘talks’ to shoppers, influencing their shopping decisions long before they reach point of purchase. At Mall Ads™, we use a process called environmental media mapping (EMM) to assess customer flow patterns, understand shopper mindsets and identify dwell zones where they may be more susceptible to specific advertising messages. This means advertising baby products to moms in baby change rooms, or vehicle insurance to motorists in parking lots, for example.

Some media types are more suitable for high dwell-zones, like digital screens, which would not make much of an impact in a parking lot – a big, bold billboard with clear messaging would be more suitable in such a zone. In effect, the type of conversation you can have with consumers is dictated by zone, with innovation paramount. Listerine’s Distance Billboard, which was built by J. Walter Thompson Rome, invites shoppers to get close by encouraging them to step into the ‘intimate zone’ – 60cm or less away from the screen, where a live interaction with a model takes place. As the shopper gets closer, the model becomes warmer and more inviting, until the shopper is able to take a free sample of mouthwash from the dispenser.

Influencing purchase

These kinds of interactions at the mall increase ‘shoppertainment’ value, lengthen a shopper’s dwell time, and influence brand purchase decisions – all important factors for marketers. In addition, the aim is to engage with consumers in a way that does not feel like ‘traditional advertising’, which can seem intrusive or uncalled for.

Marketers need to understand what works best for which products – for example, Brand X may be best served by a hanging banner or escalator advertisement, but Brand Y may require engaging with consumers in the promotional court, where there is a lot of foot traffic. The CEO of a shoe-polish brand might want to target an upscale mall, but the product might work best at a mall catering to middle LSM consumers, with a free shoe-shine thrown in.

Understanding the landscape is essential when it comes to assessing how and where your brand fits and ‘speaks to’ customers. Campaigns must have purposeful intent – it is not about exposing your brand to all and sundry, but about finding the best solutions for your brand, which means strategically planning a campaign that will truly stand out in a tough retail landscape and positively engage with your target market.

For FMCG, apparel, services and luxury brands the mall environment offers an excellent solution for influencing consumers when they are close to point of purchase. For more information, contact John Faia on 0861 776 826 or john@mallads.co.za