Shopping experience to grow in importance this year, with South Africans almost exclusively shopping in-store, mall owners and retailers that continue to invest in the experiences they offer, as well as the technology to help them achieve this, will be leaders, says JSE-listed real estate investment trust Emira Property Fund COO Ulana van Biljon, who adds that the experience economy of enjoying a physical space is what South African consumers value the most.
“It is now widely accepted that a visit online is actually the first step in a customer’s journey to a physical store in many retail categories. When customers step through the doors, it is vital that the experience that greets them lives up to, or exceeds, their expectations. In-store experience ultimately converts a potential shopper into a customer and, in the best cases, a repeat customer,” she says.
While e-commerce has made headlines, local customers have voted with their feet and wallets for in-store shopping. Physical retail in South Africa remains tremendously successful and means outdated business models are more damaging to local retail than the impact of online shopping.
“In the South African context, enhancing in-mall and in-store retail experiences to meet the modern expectations of customers, and create great experiences for them, should be a key focus for retailers and retail landlords. We expect some exciting developments in this regard in the year ahead,” says Van Biljon.
Even with the advances in online retail, many shopping centres and communities in South Africa are still hardly touched by e-commerce in 2022. These are places where people go to buy and browse but also to meet, socialise and be entertained.
“People go to malls and stores not just for shopping but for the experience,” she says, Shopping experience to grow in importance this year.
The arrival of the pandemic created a gap in the market for nimble players to accelerate e-commerce in South Africa, and some of the most rapid responses came from retail tenants that have some of the biggest footprints in Emira’s malls. Retailers Shoprite, Pepkor, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Foschini, Massmart, Mr Price and Clicks are all e-commerce success stories or are expected to introduce improved e-commerce solutions soon, she adds.
“Many of the newest online on-demand grocery shopping offerings, such as Checkers Sixty60, Pick n Pay asap and Woolies Dash, involve shopping from the shelves of their physical shops, which makes brick-and-mortar stores even more relevant in today’s market,” says Van Biljon.
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