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Today’s retailers battle for customer loyalty, conducting calculated campaigns to prove that their version of what is essentially the same product is actually superior in some way. Modern resources like online purchasing and digital product reviews have awakened customers to the sameness inherent in similar products; such knowledge gives consumers unprecedented control over not only what they buy, but how they buy. This online paradigm shift is therefore redefining the roles of large-scale, general retailers such as malls; rather than selling primarily the products themselves, malls earn 21st century success by offering an enjoyable, irreplaceable, or otherwise beneficial purchasing experience.

To fill this new role, shopping malls are resorting to fresh, creative means of marketing.

Emphasis on Entertainment

Visitors to Opry Mills mall in Nashville, TN can meet Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Faith Hill, and a few more of country’s biggest names…or at least, they’ll meet their waxy doppelgangers, courtesy of Madame Tussauds. The mall is the first in the US to host the world famous wax museum chain. Both Opry Hills and Madame Tussauds capitalize on Nashville’s country ethos to captivate and attract hordes of music tourists; the museum provides the perfect Nashville photo op: lifelike sculptures of country stars. The idea is that, before or after making a few great memories at Madame Tussauds, patrons might consider exploring anything else Opry Mills has to offer.

Paula Rosenblum of retail advisory firm RSR research says that like Opry Mills, a record number of malls are also transforming into “centers of activity where people can come and actually find a reason to be there besides shopping.” Movie theatres, children’s rides and other entertainment features common to malls have drawn traffic for decades. However, many of today’s shopping centers are reinvigorating their marketing formula to not only consider, but emphasize entertainment as a major incentive to come out and shop, despite the inconvenience of physical travel.

In-Store Incentives

The ability to climb through a ropes course, or visit an aquarium at the mall entices people to visit, and some department stores and other mall-based retailers take advantage of the flood of new business to expand their customer base. By introducing in-store exclusive perks to garner consumer loyalty, savvy retailers thrive amid the explosion of online commerce. A bevy of incentives claimable only by shopping in-store–including free gifts, complimentary samples, and day-specific doorbuster sales–provides customers an undeniable excuse to frequent brick and mortar stores.

From wild, bizarre and amazing entertainment options to smart and timely in-store promos, it’s obvious that shopping malls are not only adapting to shifts in the landscape of retail, but are themselves captaining certain changes. By redefining the typical mall experience, retail centers cater to the preferences of a new generation of shoppers.