Customers would most like to see future City Centre malls as spaces that offer food, health and wellness, hybrid, and convenient services, as well as new experiences — as revealed in the first round of a new survey by Majid Al Futtaim’s City Centre brand.
Launched in March and still ongoing, the ‘Big City Centre Vote’ has since been conducted at City Centre Deira, City Centre Mirdif, and online. The campaign seeks to help Majid Al Futtaim better understand what customers would like to experience in their respective community malls moving forward, as well as guide the development of more connected and personalised community spaces. So far, 10,000 respondents have given their feedback about their preferences and desires in dining, entertainment, shopping, occasions, and future trends categories, and matters important to them.
Most notably, the survey has found that dining and food continue to remain an important experience and attraction for mall visitors; that digital and experiential features and services are increasingly sought after; and that more family orientated areas, as well as sustainable shopping options are desired.
“As a company pioneering experiences through our shopping malls, we are constantly being pushed to innovate our offering and revitalise our assets. Historical shifts in consumer behaviour coupled with the impact of the pandemic has us asking: what will drive people back into malls, what types of retail trends will develop, and crucially, what do communities want from their malls?” said Fuad Sharaf, Managing Director, UAE Shopping Malls, Majid Al Futtaim Properties.
We know consumers are looking for new points of engagement and authentic direct-to-consumer brands, but we wanted to dig deeper and really understand what our communities are looking for at their local community mall. So, in a momentous shift, we are putting the future direction of our City Centre malls brand directly into the hands of our customers. Through this ongoing ‘Big City Centre Vote’, we are giving our communities a seat at the board-room table and enabling them to give us the insights and feedback we need to create ideal future mall spaces. We are continuing to host several community groups to truly enable customers to express their needs and look forward to reporting back as we take these results and implement them to create customised City Centres.”
Food as important as ever
Food is an important point of engagement and acts as the cornerstone of a mall’s community. The ’Big City Centre Vote’ therefore aims to allow City Centres to understand what visitors want from their mall dining options — from cuisines all the way through to experiences.
The results so far reflect the uptake of health-conscious eating trends over the past couple years, with approximately one third of respondents saying they would like to see a greater variety of healthy food and beverage outlets available to them.
Food-related activities are also ahead as the most popular entertainment options. Here, people at City Centre Mirdif voted that a cooking class would be their preferred idea of fun and new skill.
Lastly, when participants from City Centre Deira, Mirdif and Al Zahia online were asked about their preferred dining experiences, 35 per cent showed a greater affinity toward casual dining, and 24 per cent toward outdoor options ahead of fine dining (19 per cent).
Concepts, Experiences and Convenience
The ‘Big City Centre Vote’ also confirms trends that have been evolving rapidly in the past two years; that mall visitors are increasingly looking for speed, convenience, touchless technology and safety, personalisation, as well as a blend of physical and digital experiences that allow them to have a more streamlined and seamless mall journey.
Echoing the same, the findings are showing that when asked about their future shopping preferences, a majority of those shopping at City Centre Mirdif, and online said they would most like a hybrid experience which would allow them to choose products online and then try them on in-store. Instead, those from City Centre Deira are opting for more Scan & Go and self-check-out facilities.
Likewise, convenience and speed continue as a prominent theme throughout. When asked to rank what is important when ordering online, majority are ranking ‘instant delivery’ as the most important.
Alongside technologies that enable seamless experiences, tech-driven experiential concepts are also coming up as front of mind for respondents — who are voting to see more virtual and augmented reality (AR) experiences made available. For example, 30 per cent (of respondents from City Centre Deira, Mirdif and Al Zahia online) have said they would find ‘escaping to a virtual world’ most fun. Elsewhere, parents at City Centre Deira and Mirdif say they believe their kids would most likely enjoy mall treasure hunts in AR.
What matters most
While the aim of the ’Big City Centre Vote’ is to understand future preferences, it also looks to recognise topics which most matter to people — to ensure forthcoming mall spaces reflect these. In this category, over a quarter of people so far have cited sustainability and the environment as a priority. Respondents across the board are saying they would most like to see more recycling options available as well as upcycling stores, while the majority put a tick next to seeing more sustainable fashion options.
Moreover, supporting local women’s brands is also being selected as the most important way City Centre malls can empower women creators.
Focus on family
Another theme that is developing across several categories of the ‘Big City Centre Vote’ shows that respondents are looking for more diverse family-orientated experiences and children-dedicated spaces in their mall.
To this end, 31 per cent (of respondents from City Centre Deira, Mirdif and Al Zahia online) are expressing the desire for more child-friendly restaurants with more dedicated kids’ menus and play areas.
Additionally, when asked what their kids would like more of, majority parents across all malls are choosing ‘more active play areas’ in the mall followed secondly by ‘more kids’ workshops’. When prompted on most favourite kids’ activities, majority of parents are ranking arts and crafts workshops as the number one activity they’d like over school holidays.
For more information on how to vote, visit your nearest City Centre in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, and Lebanon or vote at citycentrebigvote.com.