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Mall Design: How to Make Profitable Commercial Retail Properties

How to create a modern mall design that will keep visitors returning for years to come.

Beyond the financial and logistical hurdles of building or overhauling a mall, the greatest challenge may be how to optimize all that space. Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch. This list of guiding principles and resources will help you get started as you envision and lay out a destination full of stores, dining, and unique experiences that will keep visitors coming back to see what’s new for many years to come.

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Get started with shopping mall floor plan resources and design tips

It’s not just shopping anymore

Great food and tech-forward experiences set your mall apart

Find inspiring floor plan templates and existing designs

Build with analytics, not intuition

Refine your plan with mall design best practices for happy tenants

Build a layout with peak traffic in mind

Use digital signage for a future-proof layout

Implement a concierge service

Craft a mall design that engages shoppers

Design the visitor journey around experiences

Embrace contemporary mall design

Cleanliness and open spaces increase comfort

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Get started with shopping mall floor plan resources and design tips

The ideal shopping mall experience has changed greatly since commercial retail properties began spreading in the post-World-War-2 boom. Advancing technology and shifting consumer preferences present new opportunities for malls, as well as for locations that are ready for an overhaul. Here are some resources and tips to keep in mind as you begin to plot out your ideal design.

It’s not just shopping anymore

The modern visitor has a variety of priorities as they go to visit the mall: shopping, of course, but also leisure, entertainment, and dining. Famed shopping malls such as the Mall of America feature grandiose attractions like amusement parks and massive aquariums, but you likely don’t need to go quite that far to set your location apart. Consult this article from retail planning thought leader Hussam Raouf for more ideas on how to make your mall feel larger than life in the right way.

Great food and tech-forward experiences set your mall apart

Clothing and department stores which prominently featured apparel were formerly cornerstones of many malls, but the number of consumers who shop mainly in-store for apparel is down dramatically in recent years. Instead, dining is now one of the principal attractions for visiting malls, and the desire for a good meal is even more universal than the desire for stylish and comfy clothes.

On top of prominently featuring dining options, another study found that 71 percent of shoppers would shop more often if they could use AR in the process. From taking a fresh look at new products to finding their way around the premises, AR offers a compelling new hook for shoppers.

Find inspiring floor plan templates and existing designs

If you’re looking for floor plan inspiration, you need look no further than the maps for modern malls such as Rutherford, New Jersey’s innovative American Dream mall or the elegant design of The Galleria in Houston, Texas. If you want an even more detailed look at one potential layout, you could also retrofit this free mall floor plan template from Edraw.

Build with analytics, not intuition

Modern malls have access to significant amounts of data, as a McKinsey report states, but many planners and location managers don’t have the analytical tools or wherewithal to capitalize on this priceless resource. Make analytics the backbone of your design, not an afterthought, and you’ll see dividends for years to come.

If you’re refurbishing a current design, one of the best ways to find relevant data is to pull it from the very same navigation and wayfaring solutions you may already provide to customers. This helps inform your understanding of the flow of foot traffic as well as of the customer journey, allowing you to plan store adjacencies to maximize revenue and extend visits.

Read more in our article, 7 Shopping Mall Floor Plan Resources and Design Tips to Give Your Layout a Boost.

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Refine your plan with mall design best practices for happy tenants

Successful tenants make for a successful mall. While you can’t control how each business operates beyond the bounds of your tenant agreement, you can set everyone who does business in your location up for success by following mall design best practices that put their needs at the forefront. Keep these aspects in mind as you design your new space and your tenants will thank you.

Build a layout with peak traffic in mind

Lively crowds on the premises are a good sign for just about any mall, but only if they’re managed efficiently. Your mall design should account for how visitors will flow through the facility on busy shopping days such as Black Friday as well as creating a welcoming atmosphere even during quieter hours of operation.

Consider how foot traffic will flow through your location with the draw of certain anchor spaces in mind, and use that to direct people efficiently. Filling your floor plan with points of interest can also help to ease crowding in certain areas, and modern AR technology makes it easy and effective to continually add new spots without the need for costly construction or other physical logistics.

Use digital signage for a future-proof layout

One of the most visible ways to support the success of tenants is to build prominent, high-profile signage into your design. Modern digital signage options allow you to create beautiful, custom-built solutions for your space or opt for affordable, pre-made solutions which fit in just about anywhere. Digital signage is both more adaptable and more engaging than traditional signage, and it can also double as a ready-made advertising option to provide an additional revenue stream for your mall.

Implement a concierge service

The best way to get visitors to all the stores in your mall is to make sure they actually know about them, and the most direct way to build awareness is to implement a ready-made concierge service. In the past this could take the form of a dedicated information desk or prominently displayed map kiosks, and these still have their place in modern mall designs. However, modern solutions allow customers to access all the information they need directly from the smartphones in their pockets. Either way, tenants will benefit from a greater understanding of their offerings, and customers will too.

Read more in our article, 5 Mall Design Best Practices That Drive Tenant Satisfaction.

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Craft a mall design that engages shoppers

Ultimately, the lifeblood of any mall is the visitors flowing through it. Building a mall that appeals to your desired audience — which is likely quite broad — is a challenging task, and one that will require a different approach depending on your location, resources, and other factors. However, keeping these best practices in mind will ensure that your customers get the most out of your mall, whatever shape it may take.

Design the visitor journey around experiences

To make your mall stand out in visitors’ minds as more than a convenient collection of stores and restaurants, you need to turn the mall itself into a destination. Look to the Dubai Mall, which attracted more than 84 million visitors in 2019 with not just 1,200 stores but also the sprawling Dubai Aquarium and a 155 million-year-old dinosaur, as one way to go big in becoming a true destination.

You may not have the financial resources to commit to such sprawling experiences, but you can still do a lot with a little planning ahead of time. For instance, AR technology can offer a flexible way to do everything from limited-time sales promotions to art installations to scavenger-hunt-style minigames which will send visitors from one side of the mall to the other.

Embrace contemporary mall design

Malls can immerse people in large spaces filled with cohesive design aesthetics and beautiful interiors, the likes of which they’re unlikely to experience anywhere outside of an art gallery or high-tech corporate campus. Embrace that opportunity by using contemporary design trends to inform the nature of your space. There’s nothing wrong with looking to existing locations for a little inspiration, either — the West Edmonton Mall is commonly cited as one of the best malls in the world for the way it blends a theme park experience with shopping and dining.

Cleanliness and open spaces increase comfort

The pandemic has left us all with a greater awareness of public health and sanitary concerns, and even as the world arrives at a new normal it’s unlikely to leave those lessons behind. Your design can embrace this new paradigm for public places by building in spaces that naturally encourage responsible distances between visitors, and by favoring architecture and installations which are easy to keep clean.

Read more in our article, 5 Interior Design Best Practices for Malls that Help Engage Shoppers.

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Looking for more ways to make your mall a modern shopping experience that can use practical, accessible technology to keep patrons engaged and coming back for years to come? Get in touch with Resonai today and set up a free demonstration.

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