Interview: Gayatri Ruia, development director at Palladium

21 Sep 2020 by Business Traveller India
Gayatri Ruia, development director at Palladium

The limited or zero-touch experiences are changing the face of the retail sector in India. We talk to an industry expert for insights on the ongoing transitions and efforts being adopted for safe shopping at malls.   

In what way is Mumbai’s ‘mall culture’ transitioning? 

As mall operators, we are excited with the new opportunities that this time has presented us with. There is a trend of customers valuing their own well-being and becoming keener shoppers. This is very different from revenge shopping.

With shopping at malls resuming in the new normal, the mall culture is expected to undergo a considerable change. It will become increasingly important to reach customers across touchpoints they are comfortable with.

Malls will evolve into experience centres that match offline joy online. At Palladium, we have adopted a “phygital” approach, which integrates digital and physical initiatives. We have introduced a slew of initiatives including a Whatsapp chatbot, curbside shopping, personal stylist, at-home delivery and more to make shopping a safe, convenient, and enjoyable.

What is the role of technology in the mall functioning? 

Technology has proven to be of immense importance in ensuring customer safety and will continue to do so, going ahead.

For visitors to have a relaxing, non-intrusive experience, we have leveraged technology across all Phoenix Mills properties. Our AI-based crowd density control screens at the entrance indicate the total number of people inside the mall at any given point in time.

Measures like sensor cameras; UV sterilisation of bags; footwear sterilisation mats at entry points; and contactless payments for everything from parking to purchase, encourage a safe yet opulent shopping.

Sanitisation at mall

Is digitalisation being practised across the shops? 

Customers can engage with stylists at our malls through virtual shopping sessions, so that they may purchase their selected merchandise, pay online, and pick up their order from designated curbsides, without having to step out of their vehicle. This arrangement will give them complete freedom to decide how they interact and engage with brands.

What are the changes that you are witnessing in consumer behaviour? 

Currently, Palladium is operating with 95 per cent occupancy with an average footfall above 50 per cent, and the numbers are improving every week.

While the pandemic has resulted in a higher demand for essentials, we are also seeing luxury brands recording higher sales as compared to last year.

We also expect that shopping patterns will change in India and abroad – safe shopping and social distancing will continue to be top priorities. Omnichannel shopping and relationship management will change as retailers become more compassionate and conscious of the needs and concerns of customers.

What are the additional hygiene precautions being planned for the F&B at the mall?

F&B is an important aspect of the overall customer experience at the mall. While we await the government’s go-ahead for dining at restaurants and malls, we have already implemented measures such as contactless payments, QR codes for menu among others. We have also partnered with Dineout to offer customers hassle-free dining experience.

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