How to make mall-goers cranky

December 11, 2008 by Dave Haynes

Anyone running or planning a screen network in shopping malls, or other digital services, should be slurping up new research from the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

It suggests a high level of unhappiness and goes into detail about the perceived problems people have while at the mall.

For most men, the biggest problem is of course that they are even there. But the research goes somewhat deeper than that, and gives some clues as to what mall digital media should be thinking about in terms of their non-advertising messaging.

From Marketing Charts:

More than 80% of shoppers say they had at least one problem during their last visit to a mall, and four-fifths of these problems are related to mall diversity and “excitement,” according to a study by the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Verde Group.

Overall, shoppers experienced an average of three problems during their last trip to an enclosed or open-air mall. The most common problems included an inadequate selection of restaurants, a lack of anything unique, too many stores carrying the same products, difficulty finding a parking spot, and a too-limited range of stores.

Other problems on mall-shoppers’ lists included too few restrooms, not enough signs and elevators, too many teenagers “hanging” around, and no evidence of environmental consciousness.

“Eighteen to 24-year-olds have the most problems shopping in malls, particularly with parking, boring shopping experiences, and too many teens hanging around,” said Paula Courtney, president of the Verde Group. “They are also the most likely to notice the lack of effort demonstrated by the mall to be environmentally conscious. Twenty-five to 40-year-olds, on the other hand, spend the most time and money in the mall. For this group, their top problem relates to the limited selection of restaurants available.”

Though parking issues were rated as the most serious problems overall, the other issues also have a strong affect on shopper loyalty and their propensity to recommend the mall to others. The fact that four of the top five problems are related to a lack of diversity, variety and excitement is telling, the study said.

The research, which also examines the dimensions of shopper loyalty and purchasing decisions, states that taken together, these diversity issues point to an undercurrent of mall-related dissatisfaction that goes far deeper than shopper problems with individual stores.

The most relevant finding relates to navigation, and the frustration that people can’t find what they need. Men had a bigger issue, which speaks a lot to how men who go to malls generally have a plan to get in and out in record time … or if they are stuck there, figure out where the comfy chairs are or, better, a bar with beer on tap and a game on the screens. 

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