Experiential Retail: The driving force behind the growth of Indian retail industry


With consumers seeking wholesome retail experience and entertainment, experiential retail is gathering steam across India. Creating immersive experiences to stimulate the five senses is the hallmark of experiential retail.

A report by ICRA shows a steep improvement in retail mall operational metrics after Covid-19’s second wave in August 2021. It also predicted that footfalls in shopping malls would reach pre-Covid levels in the third quarter of FY23. As experience becomes increasingly important in bridging the retailer-consumer gap, retailers are reassuring their strategies to diversify their portfolios and expand their footprints across cities. Consequently, mall developers in India are gearing up to deliver a comprehensive brand experience to customers from the moment they enter any store.

Mall developers have realized that customer engagement is critical to surviving in the competitive retail environment. Thus, they are driving innovation and adapting to emerging trends to create an indelible shopping experience for consumers. For instance, retail spaces are focusing on offering phygital (a blend of physical experience and digital environment) experiences to keep consumers entertained and engaged. Furthermore, themed malls are becoming increasingly popular due to their stunning exteriors, ornate details, and gorgeous lush landscaping.

Jatin Goel, Director, Omaxe Ltd, says, “Experiential retail is the need of the hour as people look forward to retail spaces that offer lasting impressions. We at Omaxe strive to create retail developments that are interactive, dynamic, and geared toward the fulfillment of the demand of new-age consumers. Besides, our goal is to help brands remain relevant in the competitive retail environment.”

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A significant focus is now being placed on customer engagement and omnichannel approaches in the retail sector. Moreover, sustainable malls are currently leading the way with mall owners implementing more environmental sustainability measures for the well-being of visitors as well as the community. Retail real estate today emphasizes a luxury integrated approach to appeal to consumers’ senses with exclusive amenities to keep them engaged.

Keeping visitors entertained and amused is crucial for malls to attract and retain visitors. Thus, malls are also introducing new-age entertainment elements to win the hearts of the masses. With pop-up stores and kiosks, customers get a chance to experience a sense of delight and surprise.

Abhishek Trehan, Executive Director, Trehan Iris, says, “The retail sector is witnessing a significant transition from basic brick and mortar malls to experience centers. The idea of ​​stepping out to shop or buy products already has competition from online stores which offer convenience so people need to be motivated enough to plan an outing for a more well-rounded experience. Centers need to provide a space for a nearby community, a place to gather with friends & family to make joy.”

“In our malls, for instance, we endeavor to provide novel experiences for visitors through outdoor green spaces, great design, and uplifting art. In addition to bringing a great mix of retail, F&B & entertainment, we organize activity-based fitness events, live music, sports screenings, open mic, and kids-related engagements in addition to just festive activations. The purpose is to retain Iris Broadway as the center of choice for our immediate neighborhood and beyond,” he adds.

Another report by CBRE reveals that retailers leased a million square feet across malls and high streets of major cities in April-June, as 2022 will likely see a record number of leasing. Furthermore, due to pent-up demand, retail malls are also likely to generate 30% more rental income this financial year than last year. Malls nowadays are also focusing on personalization across all retail stores to drive traffic and enhance footfall. To that end, showrooms with personalized designs are being developed to provide customers with an unforgettable buying experience around their stores.

Shibu Philips, Director-Shopping Malls, Lulu Group India, “As says new normal, the retailers have traditionally engaged with customers, we welcome the new paradigm shift. Conscientious consumers are now looking for a wholesome retail experience where utility and value are intertwined with one another. In a world where eager consumers have near limitless choices, Indian retail players are now looking to provide their patrons with a comprehensive end-to-end brand experience. This has given rise to experiential retailing across the country, wherein the consumer is indulged in a novel immersive experience.”

“By stimulating all five senses the consumer experience is exponentially enhanced. As the hallmark of experiential retail, the retail experience becomes increasingly important in bridging the retailer-consumer gap. Discerning retailers are now reassessing their strategies to diversify their portfolios and expand their footprints across cities. Hence, it stands to reason that experiential retailing will be the driving force behind the Indian retail growth story in the perceivable future,” he adds.

Mall developers are also equipping showrooms with AR and VR technology to create an immersive experience for visitors. VR mirrors, interactive window displays, and immersive screens are becoming increasingly popular among shoppers.

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