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Malls go online as shoppers stay home

MALL operators and retailers are forced to speed up their digital transformation, even as they work closely together to offer personal shopper services, delivery and curbside pick-up for customers who are still wary of going inside the mall.

“We did a lot of innovation, like curbside pickup, call-to-deliver, as part of the (digital) transformation and pivoting… Filipinos, they still like interaction… For those who really cannot come to the mall, we have a number they can call, and someone will assist them,” SM Supermalls President Steven Tan said.

“The takeup online is still low. Digital transformation is not just about e-commerce. It is also i n n o v a t i o n . You give (the customers) options, delivery, curbside pickup, cashless transactions. This is what we are focusing on right now,” he said.

Despite easing of lock down restrictions, foot traffic at SM malls have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Tan said customers are slowly coming back to their malls. “We are now at 50-60% of pre-COVID levels. We started low. When we started in May when we reopened it was 18% of preCOVID traffic but right now our footfall has increased to 60%,” he added.

Shopping malls were shuttered March 17 to May 16 last year when the government implemented an enhanced community quarantine to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We look at the experience of our China malls for inspiration on how we plan move forward from here to a post-pandemic scenario. In China, things are back-tonormal and there is a surge in revenge spending as well as family events inside the malls. This is because they have innovated technology to rebuild back better and become omnichannel. The brand has to be shoppable and shippable,” Tan said.