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With stringent SoPs in place, consumers have shown greater interest in coming back to the real shopping experience: Jayen Naik, Nexus Malls

With the festive season, we expect a positive sentiment and the demand for high-end products and gift items to sustain until January 2021, says Naik.

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The festive season always brings with itself hope and revival. Malls across the country are prepared to welcome the shoppers with all necessary safety precautions in place. With the reopening of food courts, restaurants as well as Multiplexes, business is expected to pick up soon for various mall owners.

To know how malls are preparing themselves for this unique festive season, we spoke to Jayen Naik, Senior VP- Operations & Projects, Nexus Malls.  

Excerpts: 

How are you looking at the festive season and what will be some of the strategies to leverage the festive season? 

There are a couple of means in which we are planning to tap the audiences this year leading up to the festive season:

• Online: Because of the lockdown, a lot of people are now more online than they used to be. A perfect way to grab their attention would be social media. We have intensified our social media presence and are curating content which is easy to comprehend and consume, whether it is awareness or offers. We are also working on a digital film with our Happyness Ambassador, Ayushmann Khurrana, which talks about how this year, some people would be forced to celebrate Diwali away from home and with their new families who have stood with them during the pandemic. 

Besides that, we have also piloted a project at one of our malls where we are enabling the Chat and Shop feature through WhatsApp. The process is as simple as scanning a QR code, pick the store from within the mall you want to shop at and you can chat with the store personnel for your requirements, make the payments online and get the merchandise delivered at home. 

• Instant Gratification: Unlike in the past, people would not be as open to the idea of coming back to claim the gratification. Smaller gifts and gratification, but getting them instantly have worked much better than bigger gifts for which they have to wait and then come back to claim it. We have successfully executed this across our portfolio of malls just before the lockdown and they have worked really well for us. Since reopening as a part of the various Unlock phases, the instant gratification has worked really well for us and has helped us increase the bill values by 15-20% approximately. 

How are various brands using experiential marketing at the mall? 

Experience will no longer be defined by elaborate set-ups and activations, in the current situation, the experience would mean safety and ease with which people can complete the journey from the time that they enter the mall, till the time that they exit. 

Across our portfolio of malls, we have joined hands with Bureau Veritas and ICMR, both bodies of repute in the field of safety and sanitizing audits. The purpose of our associations has been to ensure that we provide a safe shopping experience to our patrons. We are the only mall company in India to have an association like this, to ensure complete implementation of the WHO and the SCAI SOPs for malls. 

We have made several technological enhancements to our infrastructure to ensure that the safety of our patrons is not compromised and the guidelines set up by the local administration and MHA are not flouted. We have a live footfall tracker at every entry and exit of the mall to tell us exactly how many people are there in the mall at a given point in time. We have foot-operated water taps and elevators to ensure touchless movement in the mall. 

Apart from that, we have offered free space for retailers to put up a pop-up kiosk to display relevant merchandise. This promotional space is being offered to retailers as a support for free/barter. We have also made available SOH inventory (Space on Hire) for retailers to put up their promotional content for a stipulated period of time since reopening. 

We have initiated talks with brands of similar stature for cross-promotion (for e.g. a Fashion brand ties up with F&B brands and they cross-promote offers/bundle offers.) For retailer support in smaller cities, for e.g., in Mall of Amritsar, we are doing Canter Activity. During this activity, we are sending a fully branded tempo with all brand logos and are giving out vouchers that can be redeemed at the mall. Similarly, in Bhubaneswar, we are intending to use branded auto-rickshaws to create awareness about the offers that retailers have. 

How different is this festive season? 

Since reopening, we are seeing a lot of shoppers who are sure of their choices and have treated this as an opportunity to therapy shop themselves during the unprecedented crisis of what they want and where they would find it. 

The consumer sentiment is very positive and optimistic during the festival season. Consumers are more at ease during festival time and like to pamper themselves with premium to bridge-to-luxury & above products/brands. As far as our retail partners are concerned, they are stocking up new merchandise and products with new season clothing, accessories, etc., and have transformed their stories in-line with the festive theme to maintain and enhance the demand. 

With stringent SoPs and guidelines in place, consumers have shown greater interest in coming back to the real shopping experience at Shopping Malls. With the festive season around the corner, we expect a positive sentiment and the demand for high-end products and gift items to sustain until January 2021.

How do you make sure that the customers are having a safe experience?

At Nexus Malls, we are following all the protocols advised by the local authorities and SCAI which has been implemented in the strictest possible manner. For elevators, guidelines have been in place outside every elevator. We have put permanent distance markers inside elevators so that people can follow the markers. Lift attendants will be placed in each lift to ensure compliance. 

In washrooms, only alternate washbasins and urinals are allowed to be in use. There will be an attendant in each of the washrooms to monitor compliance. 

Additionally, food courts & restaurants seating will be reduced, and tables will be placed at a distance to adhere to social distancing norms. Also, contactless ordering & payment systems are implemented, thereby reducing crowding at QSRs. Adequate markings have been placed in and around food counters. All the staff including home delivery employees are being screened before being allowed to enter the mall premises.

Moreover, we have also planned and rolled out several additional safety procedures, automatic density checks, contactless payments, reduced and automated parking, contactless baggage scanner, and additional COVID Marshalls on the floor to keep a real-time check on social distancing and ensure safety precautions are followed by shoppers.


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