An online panel of 473 shoppers was the focus of a GW School of Business marketing study. The study looked into how shopping malls can appeal to the diverse residences and visitors of the capital region. The study findings concluded that millennial consumers prefer visiting malls that integrate technology in their shopping experiences, utilize the “word of mouse” to create relevant social media buzz around the brand, and build a thriving futuristic lifestyle experience through engaging family and friends.
Of 473 respondents to the survey, 59.14% were females, while 40.86% were males. Millennial consumers represented the majority of study participants (81%), while the baby boomers were 4.5%. The Study participants represented the District of Columbia (50.6%), Virginia (18%), and Maryland (13.3%). The average annual household income of study participants was $95,000.
Unlike the national trend, suburban malls out ranked DC malls based on customer experience. Out of 38 shopping centers in the capital region, the top three malls were all in Northern Virginia while the only top-ranked outdoor/ indoor malls were the National Harbor in Maryland and Eastern Market in DC.
This GW study found it rather a myth to assume that Millennials prefer to buy online. The study found that buying online equals shopping in the mall when came to preferences of the Millennials. Only 39% of the males and 31% of the females preferred buying online. Today’s buyers are multichannel shoppers where they browse online and buy in mall or window shop in the mall and buy online. The main thrust here is for malls to draw consumers to the mall and build on their lifestyle shopping experience that will generate sales.
Further, the GW study found that some of the top reasons for visiting the mall include: Variety of shops in the mall (28.3%), Proximity to homes (23.3%), and One-stop shopping convenience (18.6%). The length of the mall visit varied across generations where baby boomers reported on spending 2-3 hours on average per visit in contrast with male Millennials who reported on spending less than one hour. On this regard, the study found gender differences related to the time spent shopping in the mall as females tended to spend more time and money per each visit. All study participants reported on their primary reason to visit the mall was for buying purpose followed by secondary reasons like window shopping, dining, and attending special events. The study found a strong correlation between frequency of purchases when visiting the mall and how much the shopper spent on last visit. Shopper experience factors like ambiance, decorations, and friendly shopkeepers were found to make shopping more exciting. Additionally, proper signs/directions, accessibility, and parking garages were all identified as helpful in contributing to the brand experience. The primary sources of information in learning about capital region malls included friends and family (50%), search engine/ Google, Yahoo, etc. (30%), and social media (15%).
“Millennials are more likely to be engaged in mall shopping experience when in groups. To extend their visit to the mall, it is essential to connect with them through exciting experiences as they desire being engaged in imaginative adventures. They gravitate towards malls and stores that integrate multiscreen technology, offer products with charitable causes, and provide socially engaging experiences,” said Professor Salah S. Hassan of the GW School of Business who led a team of 59 students on a semester long study of malls in the Capital region.