As the relationship between retailer and customer becomes more complex and consumers’ motivation to purchase one product over another continues to shift and evolve,  especially in this digital age, social media, personalisation and the need for customers to find both affinity and value in a brand have become increasingly important.

Consumers are still shopping in retail environments and malls – and what’s more, they’re enjoying it. According to the Urban Studies Report SA Shopping Centre Benchmarks 1998 – 2018, retail sales figures in SA during 2017 exceeded R1 trillion for the first time. Retail sales increased from R939 billion in 2016 to just over R1 trillion in 2017. This represents an increase of 7.3%, and shopping centre sales represent 65% of this total. These figures are influenced largely by the environment in which purchasing takes place.

Consumers have become more discerning, as they’re exposed to a larger array of brands vying for their attention than ever before. This, coupled with a flat wallet, is challenging marketers to continuously come up with better, more effective ways to gain visibility for their brands and ensure they reach sales targets. 

Malls are conducive to making consumers spend, and advertising in this environment guarantees that brands will make it to that final, desirable destination: the shopping basket.

According to market research consultancy Latimer Appleby, shoppers are readily converted from browsing to buying. Retail parks and regional malls are conducive to converting awareness of a brand to a purchase up to 90% of the time. Browsing can lead to conversion levels of around 60%, with special offers and seasonal messages increasing the likelihood of conversion. In other words, advertising within the mall environment, when a shopper is already in a purchasing frame of mind, will give him or her the nudge needed to choose your brand.

The big take out

Mall advertising is an effective way to close the gap between marketing and sales, providing a personalised way to engage with consumers when they are in a purchasing frame of mind.

The SA Council of Shopping Centres points out that mall goers visit nine retail categories per visit and only three of those are planned, which leads to unplanned purchases – something else that works in a brand’s favour. This means that if a brand wants to outshine a competitor, it needs to be in the face of the targeted consumer when he or she is most likely to be making an unplanned purchasing decision. This is where strategic mall campaigns come into play.

To close the sales loop, brands need to be present, disrupt and show personalisation, whether it is in the form of a value offering or something created especially and uniquely for the individual consumer.

Take, for example, a campaign implemented earlier this year at East Point shopping centre in Boksburg for Father’s Day. Fathers were treated to a free haircut by Wizards Hair Studio. The activation consisted of a pop-up hair salon, creating brand awareness for the shop and providing customers with the opportunity to “sample” the service in the form of the complimentary haircut.

The activation was aligned to one of the big trends in consumer engagement – personalisation. Consumers want to be recognised and communicated with on an individual basis.  The East Point campaign gave customers something of value. It also attracted shoppers who wouldn’t normally step into that section of the mall. The sharing of consumer-generated content on social media and by word of mouth ensured that the campaign was leveraged beyond the confines of the mall. The campaign ticked all the boxes in terms of customer satisfaction, marketing reach and return clientele.

According to PwC, out-of-home advertising reaches approximately 85% of the adult population in SA, and this includes malls. Within malls, the scope for creativity when engaging consumers is substantial and flexible.

Advertising in the mall environment has become both an art form and a science, while closing the loop between marketing and sales requires a continuous cycle of reinvention. It’s about grabbing attention and delivering a brand message at exactly the right time, in the right place. It is also about adding to the shopper experience.

John Faia is the general manager of Mall Ads.