The future of malls includes walkways powered by AI, retina-recognition purchasing and restrooms that offer health diagnosis.
When consumers visit retail spaces, they increasingly expect engaging, frictionless experiences, as previously reported by JWT Intelligence. Last week, the Westfield global shopping center behemoth showed off its vision for the future of retail, presenting its Destination 2028 concept. The proposal describes the future mall as a “hyper-connected micro-city” which will go way beyond shopping to incorporate wellness enhancement and community involvement.
Westfield 2028 offers biophilic interior features such as sensory gardens and waterways, as well as spaces for wellness workshops and even toilets that can diagnose hydration and vitamin levels. The concept was developed after internal research highlighted consumers’ growing interest in health and wellness. This chimes with research from the Innovation Group’s 2017 “Transcendent Retail” report, which similarly identified an appetite for wellness-driven features—49% of American millennials would be interested in stores that offer seminars on various topics, while more than half say a spa or gym would make them more likely to visit a retail destination.
Frictionless shopping experiences will also lead to a less stressful environment for future shoppers. Technological advances like eye scanners which can inform stores about shoppers’ previous purchases or their wishlists are underpinning the entire centre. The walkways throughout the complex will be powered by artificial intelligence, which will recommend personalized fast lanes tailored to individual customers. According to our research, around three-quarters of American shoppers find it annoying waiting in line to pay, pointing to a strong appetite for more seamless store visits.
While Westfield 2028 is still at the conceptual stage, many retailers are already incorporating elements of wellness and community into their new high-tech stores. In May 2018, Saks opened a new beauty floor at its Fifth Avenue flagship complete with branded spas for Chanel and Dior, as well as an 850-square-foot event space for talks related to wellness and beauty, tapping into consumers’ desire to learn while they shop.
Whole Foods is expanding its hold on the wellness category to include home goods with its PlantAndPlate lifestyle and decor line. Currently only available in the Whole Foods store in Bridgewater, New Jersey, this new space sells goods “rooted in nature” which align with consumers’ desire to bring elements of wellness into their entire lives, not just their beauty or fitness routines.
As headlines continue to announce the closure of more retail stores, recently including 10 branches of Lord & Taylor, considered the longest-established department store in the United States, and 31 branches of UK department store House of Fraser, Westfield is attempting to get on top of physical store fatigue by building innovation and technology into the forefront of its future. The shopping experience projected for 10 years from now offers convenience, a sense of calm and a wholly engaging experience.