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Amazon killed
shopping malls

Not yet. Shopping Malls are still attracting buyers but are definitely struggling to be profitable year by year, Amazon will probably soon be the king of retail on apparel, electronics, and gadgets, the reason most of us (generation X) used to go to the malls.

But, what exactly is going on with retail stores? Why did Sears, JC Penny, and some other major brands close their stores in almost every mall in the US and Canada? One easy and quick answer: e-commerce.

Isn’t it great to go online from your iPad and look for a variety of brands, models, prices, etc., without even getting out of bed? What about shopping for that anniversary gift for your wife? I still remember how frustrating was for me years ago, to go to my nearest find-everything-you-are-looking-for mall, from one shop to another trying to find the exact size, the exact color, and of course the best price for that gift, after several hours of walking almost every floor in the mall and as tired as running a marathon ended up buying something not even close to what my wife described as she dreamed gift.

What is doing Amazon right and retail stores wrong? very simple, Amazon is empowering the customer to buy what she o he wants, period. Retail stores are still caught in the past offering what they think it is best for you, the brands they think they like, colors, sizes, etc., goods that that a purchasing department on a corporate office, miles away from the local store, thought would sell like hotcakes.

E-commerce has been around for a while now, but Amazon has excelled in providing a wonderful user experience with complex algorithms that are constantly learning about your needs, your preferences, your shopping behavior, etc., Amazon also uses remarketing at its best, always reminding you on Facebook or displaying ads in your favorite app showing a picture of the product your almost buy, reminding you did not complete that last purchase because you had second thoughts or probably because just when you were ready to hit the “Order now” button your wife just entered the bedroom.

From my point of view, retail stores can still do certain things to keep customers coming to their stores and stay on business for several years, here are some thoughts:

  • Go on line. Open your store on the web, there is no need to spend millions of dollars setting up ecommerce, there are a couple of websites that can do that for you and you only need to upload your physical inventory, try Shopify or even Amazon lets you sell your products online.
  • Start doing digital marketing. Millennials and Generation Z buyers prefer to shop online, they like to have several choices, compare prices, ask friends for recommendations and of course receive their packages at their doorstep. Social networks such as a Facebook, Twitter and more recently Instagram are the perfect tools to reach that audiences.
  • Google is not dead. I have heard some people telling me that google searches are declining and that having a website is obsolete. Google is more alive than ever, Android smartphones are feeding insane amounts of data into Google´s servers, user their demographic information and personal behavior that is capitalized into millions of dollars providing detailed (yet anonymous) information to advertisers through their golden goose: Google AdWords.
  • Augmented Shopping Experience. This is something I came up with during my last winter vacations. I live in Montreal and went on vacation to visit my sister and my brother in law who live in Michigan, they took me, my wife and my 4-year-old kid to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, a huge Mall with hundreds of stores and even a Lego attraction called Legoland Discovery Center that my kid enjoyed four hours with his uncle while I was comfortably sited enjoying a medium Chai Latte from the Starbucks isle at the food court, my sister and my niece went on shopping and my wife enjoyed having some spare time to browse a bit on Facebook and WhatsApp messages. Also, it amazed me that the mall was open until 10 pm! So, giving your potential customers a great shopping experience at your local store could be a great way to keep they coming, offer them free smoothies, free feet massage, prepaid Starbucks cards, and of course encourage each and every customer to visit your business page on Facebook and let a review or take a picture of them with any of your products and upload it into Instagram tagging your business.
  • Find a niche. You cannot compete with Amazon, but you can certainly find a niche for your products, people that would appreciate maybe, a personalized service or extended hours so they can get out of work and rush into your store to find what they are looking for. Be creative, don’t be afraid to ask your customers: What do you need from us to keep coming to our store or buy from our store online?

One thing is for sure, it does not matter if you are the owner of a small store in downtown or the administrator of several stores on every mall in your city, one thing is for sure: Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z customers are being trapped by ecommerce and they are enjoying it!

Follow me on Facebook @RoblesSerranoJesus.

Jesús Robles

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