Shopping malls in Southeast Asia are not just places to buy goods and services, but also destinations for people to socialize, learn, and have fun. In a region where urbanization, digitalization, and cultural diversity are rapidly changing the lifestyles of consumers, malls are offering unique experiences, creative workspaces, and interactive group entertainment to attract and retain customers.
One of the ways that malls are providing unique experiences is by hosting pop-up museums, exhibitions, and festivals that showcase local culture, art, and innovation. For example, in Singapore, the Funan Mall hosts a variety of events such as the Singapore Night Festival, the Singapore Design Week, and the Singapore Comic Con, where visitors can enjoy performances, workshops, and interactive displays.
In Malaysia, the Sunway Pyramid Mall hosts the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, which features water slides, roller coasters, and wildlife attractions.
In Thailand, the Siam Paragon Mall hosts the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, which is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia.
Another way that malls are providing creative workspaces is by offering co-working spaces, meeting rooms, and business centers that cater to the needs of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and professionals.
For example, in Indonesia, the Plaza Indonesia Mall hosts the CoHive Plaza Indonesia, which is a co-working space that offers flexible desks, private offices, event spaces, and networking opportunities.
In Vietnam, the Vincom Center Mall hosts the Toong Vincom Center B Co-working Space, which is a co-working space that features a library, a cafe, a gym, and a rooftop garden.
In the Philippines, the Ayala Malls Circuit hosts the Clock In Ayala Malls Circuit Co-working Space, which is a co-working space that provides high-speed internet, printing services, mail handling, and access to events and workshops.
A third way that malls are providing interactive group entertainment is by featuring gaming zones, virtual reality centers, and escape rooms that challenge and engage visitors.
For example, in Cambodia, the Aeon Mall hosts the Legend Cinema VR Zone, which is a virtual reality center that offers immersive experiences such as roller coaster rides, haunted houses, and space adventures.
In Myanmar, the Junction City Mall hosts the Breakout Escape Room Yangon, which is an escape room that offers themed scenarios such as prison breakouts, treasure hunts, and murder mysteries.
THE INVESTMENTS INVOLVED
There is no definitive answer to how much shopping malls in Southeast Asia expect to invest in these unique experiences and what is the expected return of investment. However, some possible factors and estimates can be derived from the available data.
- One factor that may influence the investment and ROI of unique experiences is the type of experience offered. For example, pop-up exhibits and museums may require less capital and space than virtual reality gaming centers or theme parks, but they may also generate less revenue and customer loyalty. The choice of experience may depend on the mall’s target market, location, size, and competitive advantage.
- Another factor that may affect the investment and ROI of unique experiences is the demand for such experiences in the region. According to a report by Facebook and Bain & Company1, Southeast Asian consumers are looking for more than just convenience and discounts when they shop online or offline. They also value social interaction, personalization, and discovery. These are the elements that unique experiences can provide to attract and retain customers.
- A third factor that may impact the investment and ROI of unique experiences is the trend of the retail industry in Southeast Asia. As the report by The ASEAN Post2 suggests, traditional retail is not dying, but rather evolving to meet the changing needs and preferences of consumers. Shopping malls are becoming more than just places to buy goods, but also destinations for entertainment, leisure, and community. Therefore, investing in unique experiences may be a way for malls to differentiate themselves and stay relevant in the market.
- Based on these factors, some rough estimates of the investment and ROI of unique experiences can be made. For example, a pop-up exhibit based on the popular TV show Friends opened in Singapore in 2020, charging SGD 25 per ticket and attracting 6,000 visitors in two weeks. Assuming the exhibit cost SGD 100,000 to set up and operate, the ROI would be (6,000 x 25 – 100,000) / 100,000 = 50%. On the other hand, a virtual reality gaming center in Malaysia called VR Lab charges MYR 35 per hour and has 12 outlets across the country. Assuming each outlet cost MYR 500,000 to set up and operate, and each outlet has an average of 10 customers per hour, the ROI would be (10 x 35 x 12 x 30 x 12 – 500,000 x 12) / (500,000 x 12) = 151.2%.
These are just some hypothetical examples, and the actual investment and ROI of unique experiences may vary depending on many factors. However, they illustrate the potential of unique experiences to generate value for both customers and mall operators in Southeast Asia.
Some possible challenges of investing in unique experiences are:
- Cost and risk: Unique experiences may require a significant amount of capital, time, and resources to set up and operate. They may also involve higher operational and maintenance costs than traditional retail offerings. Moreover, unique experiences may entail more uncertainty and risk, as they depend on factors such as customer demand, market trends, competition, regulations, and technology. For example, a virtual reality gaming center may face challenges such as low customer adoption, technical glitches, legal issues, or cyberattacks1.
- Measurement and optimization: Unique experiences may be difficult to measure and optimize, as they involve complex and dynamic interactions between customers, brands, and environments. Traditional metrics such as sales, revenue, or foot traffic may not capture the full value and impact of unique experiences. Moreover, unique experiences may require more sophisticated and innovative methods and tools to collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback and data. For example, a pop-up exhibit may need to use sensors, cameras, or social media to track and optimize customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty2.
- Integration and alignment: Unique experiences may pose challenges for integration and alignment with the existing business strategy, operations, and culture. They may require a different mindset, skillset, and toolset than traditional retail offerings. They may also require collaboration and coordination across multiple functions, departments, and partners. For example, a creative workspace may need to align with the mall’s brand identity, design, and layout, as well as with the needs and expectations of the tenants, workers, and visitors3.
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