Dubai: Bring the yoga mats the next time you visit the mall. Or don’t forget the shoes for a game of soccer. As malls look beyond offering shopping therapy and F&B options, these could well be what the new face of a visit to the mall would be.
At Majid Al Futtaim operated City Centre malls, it’s already happening.
The Dubai-headquartered mall operator launched a soccer concept at City Centre Deira last week, and will also host yoga classes in there and at its Midrif destination. There will be paddle tennis this summer at City Centre Al Zahiya. So, it’s about wellness as much as it is about shopping and dining on what consumers want from their malls.
Majid Al Futtaim launched the ‘Big City Centre Vote’ that encourages consumers to share their thoughts on a voting platform, either in-person or online at citycentrebigvote.com. With the results, the company aims to customise malls with hyper-personalised and hyper-connected features. “We want to make sure that we’re delivering what they want, and the only way to do that is to listen to them,” said Michelle Walsh, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Majid al Futtaim Shopping Malls.
“And for us to be relevant and become the ‘mall of the future’, I believe the customers need to play an important role. This is one of the elements which differentiate us from all the other competitors.”
Majid Al Futtaim wants to make sure that they know ‘intimately’ what the customers want from that local area. “The beauty of it [campaign] is we will know exactly what a city centre’s customer wants,” said Walsh. “Because we know there are different nationalities and different needs and requirements from what they want from the mall.”
Since the launch, six weeks ago, over 10,000 customers participated in the campaign, and the mall owner has already implemented these changes at local City Centres. “The idea is we are going to try and do as many of these so customers will notice and they’ll feel that sense of belonging,” said Walsh. “And that’s ultimately what a City Centre stands for - that sense of belonging that the local community have.”
The campaign will go live again in two years, confirmed Walsh. She said: “We know customer needs are changing, and customers’ needs are evolving at a fast pace. And if we’re not listening to them, how can we deliver what they want to see in their malls?”
Thoughts on food too
The second criterion that topped customer feedback was to make healthy eating options available at the malls. “A couple of months ago, we launched the Bio store theme with Carrefour to develop hydroponic farming,” said Walsh. “This is all leaning towards customers saying we want to have more options that are healthier.”
The specialised store, which has more than 3,000 items spanning F&A to beauty and home-care, also has dedicated organic, vegan and ‘free-from’ categories. It also houses a special area for SMEs in the UAE showcasing home-grown products.
Sustainability came out really strong in feedback in the campaign. “There are some mandates coming this summer from the government to go plastic-free,” said Walsh. “So we’re getting ahead of that by offering people tote bags during the summer and hoping that becomes a habit.”
Ahead of the plastic ban, Majid Al Futtaim is trialling starch bags in Abu Dhabi that biodegrade after six months. “We’re looking at all of the innovation that exists around plastic-free technology,” said Sharaf. “And we will be bringing that to life probably quickly. We will obviously make sure that we can do everything we can as well to make that a reality.”
Majid Al Futtaim is ‘keen’ on bringing innovation and customer experience together. The Group confirmed that in a few weeks, people arriving at the malls can reserve car parks in advance via an app.
“You can tell us what time you’re coming and we then have an area in the mall reserved for you,” said Michelle Walsh. “This is again something that we’ve heard customers saying how can I get quicker access to the mall via better parking experiences.”
The mall owner also wants to bring arts and cultural experiences close to people. It has teamed up with Sharjah University and encouraged the students to come and exhibit their displays.