Complex Made Simple

What does the mall of the future look like?

E-commerce is becoming increasingly popular. But this does not mean that the mall shopping experience will ever come to an end.

Shopping malls are here to stay.

In fact, mega-malls will boost the GCC’s retail market to nearly $300 billion by 2018, while GCC’s retail market is set to grow by 15 percent from $253bn in 2016 to $290bn by 2018 according to a recent Ardent Advisory report.

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Futuristic malls

According to the Robin report, which provides retail insights, “new malls are living, breathing communities where retail takes its place alongside trendy, upscale eateries, sprawling green spaces, compelling entertainment and recreational facilities and even spiritual hideaways.”

A study by CNBC states that the future of retail will look starkly different 25 years out.

“Full-body scanners that take your measurements, and recommend the clothes that best fit your body. Seamless checkouts that can be done from inside the dressing room or on your mobile phone, eliminating the need to wait in line,” it said.

“That means a different tenant mix, smaller selling floors, and technologies and experiences that give shoppers a reason to leave their couches and hit the aisles.”

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A future shopping case in point is Hointer, a Seattle-based company keeps only one version of its products on the selling floor, and interested customers zap their smart phones, scan the attached tags they wish to try on, and “voila” their wishes come true into the dressing room, where the items magically appear.

Malls: More than just a shopping experience

Shopping malls today are also a place for themed parks, visual effects in addition to live events, cinema theaters and arcade games.

According to Forbes, Majid Al Futtaim recently announced that it will build two major malls in Riyadh, including the Mall of Brands.

“Spread over an area of 866,000 square metres, and slated to be completed by 2022, the ‘brands’ mall will feature the world’s largest indoor snow park and a wide mix of luxury retail and restau­rants and reported to include a hotel and a serviced apartment building,” it said.

The Dubai Mall has a 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall. The aquarium is home to over 30,000 aquatic animals including over 400 sharks and rays.

It also comprises an underwater zoo with piranha, penguins, crocodiles, lizards, snakes and much more.

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Majid Al Futtaim also announced over a year ago its plan to build Saudi Arabia’s first indoor ski slope as part of a 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) investment in two new shopping centres in Riyadh.

In 2005, the Mall of the Emirates pioneered the indoor ski resort experience at the time considered the largest in the world, according to the Guinness World Records website, boasting a 400m slope.

Audiovisual technology

As malls rise and expand across the region such as City Centre Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi, the Mall of Saudi in Riyadh, and the Mall of Oman in Muscat, retailers are investing in audiovisual technology to transform the in-store experience.

“In interior design, intangible material such as lighting, music, acoustics, and visual technology can combine to transform the identity of a place and its experience” said Dolli Daou, Director, Association of Professional Interior Designers in the UAE in statement.

Industry experts are saying that technology innovations are catalyzing the GCC’s retail growth to hit a record high of $313 bn by 2021.

“GCC malls are no longer only about shopping – with mall operators and retailers transforming malls into entertainment destinations,” said Hans J van den Berg, CEO, AudiCom Middle East and Africa.

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Indoor positioning system

Malls are using indoor positioning systems which allow visitors to navigate the place using GPS.

This helps compensate visitors for the simplicity in the shopping experience offered by e-commerce platforms which allow users to go through a full list of products with specifications in an easy way.

According to Retail Touch Points, an online publishing network for retail executives, the Dubai Mall has partnered with indoor positioning system (IPS) provider Senion to help its 80 million annual visitors navigate the 12.1 million-square-foot complex.