Future of shopping

Mall experiences are set to become hybrid by 2030.

The virtual world is here to stay.

By Reya Mehrotra

The adaptation to the virtual world during the pandemic is here to stay and is only likely to strengthen in the future. Shopping is no different. As per the Ericsson ConsumerLab 10 Hot Consumer Trends report out in December, mall experiences are set to become hybrid by 2030. Here are some predictions of the study.

Anyverse pool

Gaming zones have increasingly become popular attractions at malls and give youngsters and even families a chance to bond. But forget about ordinary gaming zones, because malls could offer chances to escape the world. Many imagine the exploration of impossible worlds. Two-thirds of consumers believe there will be swimming pools where you can use an oxygenated VR headset to experience outer space in zero gravity.

All-now arena

Mall visits would require a customer to be equipped with gears like AR glasses, waterproof VR glasses, haptic body suits and tactile gloves by 2030. One could be either or both—the actor and spectator and have an immersive experience. Nearly eight out of 10 consumers foresee event halls where telepresence technology would allow artists to digitally perform as if they were there in person. Dr Michael Bjorn, head of research agenda, Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab, and driver of the 10 Hot Consumer Trends report, says, “It may be difficult to imagine large number of consumers with expensive tech gear such as AR glasses, waterproof VR glasses but if such equipment could be shared at a lower cost, it is definitely possible that consumers will have it to enhance shopping experiences.”

Restaurant at the node of the universe

It is not always that you visit malls with someone. For those visiting a mall for a meal alone, there would be opportunities to have a virtual company. This would enable customers to have a distraction-free, virtual company in restaurants to virtually eat with friends in other restaurants, anywhere in the world.

Immersive beauty salon

Cosmetic surgeries to enhance looks or to look younger are increasingly becoming common in salons globally. However, malls by 2030 could provide an option to completely skip going under the knife or having features enhanced through the needle. Beauty salons that use volumetric modelling technology to digitally enhance looks are expected in malls by seven out of 10 consumers in the study.

Meta tailor

Fashion choices would no longer be limited and on the shelf. Fast fashion tailored just for you is likely to be the mantra. More than seven out of 10 AR/VR users foresee a tailor in the mall using fabrics that can switch to become waterproof or provide ventilation when needed. Takers of the survey also believe that such high-end tech-enabled facilities at a mall would attract people to smaller cities.

Hybrid gym

For many, mental wellness starts with physical wellbeing and so, malls will be able to take care of health and fitness. Seven out of 10 consumers expect mental fitness centres that have multisensory, personality-tailored AR/VR scenery to help improve mental health being set up at malls.

Print-a-wish multifactory

On one hand where fast fashion would escalate, sustainable fashion too will evolve. On-demand repair and production are the future as over half of consumers want to shop sustainably in a factory outlet that recycles their old products. This would be an option in the malls.

Neverending store

Try before you buy, virtually at least. Three-quarters of consumers expect to be able to project their home inside the store when trying out new products. Such ‘bricks-and-portal’ facilities will be enabled by technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and programmable materials.

Medical multiplex centre

There could be health scares anywhere and so, a facility like a mall would necessarily require a drop in medical centre. As many as 77% consumers foresee in-mall medical centres with drop-in AI health scanning that gives near-instant health status updates.

Nature & park

When the mall is catering to all other needs, why not nature and peace as well. As many as 42% consumers want to visit an in-mall park where they can feel closer to nature through digital and programmable materials that provide hybrid experiences. This would give nature lovers a chance to visit the mall. The survey was conducted online in October and November 2021 on early adopters of AR, VR and digital assistants in 14 cities globally including Delhi, Dublin, Jakarta, Johannesburg, London, Mexico City and so on. The hybrid shopping experiences were imagined in a fictional ‘Everyspace Plaza’ mall.

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