NEW YORK: Shopping malls need to emphasize their role as fashion hubs, promote shopper socialization and reinvent food courts to help “draw crowds”, a study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

Haiyan Hu (Morgan State University/Baltimore, MD) and Cynthia R. Jasper (University of Wisconsin/Madison) asserted that “a satisfying shopping experience is critical to a mall’s ability to draw crowds and to its effectiveness as a marketing medium”.

Their paper, Understanding the Shopping Experience and Its Implications for Malls as Marketing Media – Attracting and Retaining Customers through Fashion, Service, and Improved Food Options, used 88 in-depth interviews and a survey of 335 consumers as the basis for analysis.

One finding: “This study shows that consumers still view shopping malls as their primary destination for fashion goods,” the authors wrote.

Retailers and mall managers, therefore, should both “reinforce the idea that shopping malls are the primary venues for fashion goods and ideas.

“Shopping-mall patrons can be targeted with experiential marketing promote shopper socialization, encourage further exploration of unique and novel items, and present a community-based space that cannot be found through other channels, such as the internet.”

Culinary considerations should come into play, too. “Reinventing the food court and snack shops will encourage shoppers to linger for longer amounts of time, thus creating better media exposure,” the scholars explained.

Equally, service is an “essential aspect of the shopping experience at malls,” they stated. “Service includes encounters between customers and salespeople as well as the availability of merchandise.”

Appearing as part of “What We Know About In-Store Marketing” section of the most recent edition of JAR, the study considered eight key mall-shopping dimensions: escapism; browsing; socialization; activity; shopping for fashion products; uniqueness; service; and aesthetics.

Drawing on their assessment, the academics suggested that “the shopping mall increasingly is viewed as a meeting place, community center, and important entertainment venue, not just a place to purchase goods and services”.

Unlike consumers using digital commerce platforms, it also revealed that “shopping-mall customers are inclined less to seek affordability or efficiency.

“Both groups of shoppers, however, seek aesthetic appeal, entertainment, and enjoyment in their shopping experience.

“The need for social activity was evident among shopping-mall customers, but this was not the case among non-store shoppers, which might be explained by the limitations of offering such activities through catalogs or the internet.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff