With digital purchasing on the rise, many retailers are rethinking their business strategies to build greater brand loyalty and heighten awareness of their products and services. Big names like Tesla are growing their online presence while downsizing or even eliminating showrooms. In opposition, malls and gallerias continue to reinvent themselves as people seek out various ways to spend their time and money. And, while similar moves continue across geographies, purchasing habits are evolving and activating an entirely new future of consumerism – with a growing crossover between IRL and URL.

Leading a shift in the retail landscape from big-box luxury to community microcosm – people are looking for deeper experiences with the products they trust. As such, brands are not only enhancing their ecommerce efforts but creating flagship stores that encourage in-person exchanges for enhanced buyer journeys. According to Coresight Research, 4,432 retailers opened stores across the United States this year compared to the 1,954 who closed shop. In addition, e-tailers like Warby Parker and Amazon continue to add brick and mortar locations and pop-up stores to their well-established repertoires as a means to capitalize on the 80+ percent of face-to-face buyer transactions.

©EDSA | Insights | Women shopping

Replacing traditional shopping malls are open-air destination developments that offer a mix of retail, commercial, entertainment and residential. Combining convenience with elements of nature and social interaction, these multi-purpose, multi-dimensional environments have the ability to transform transactional purchases into experiential shopping where buyers pause for a meal, chat with friends or catch a movie without driving to separate locations for each activity.

Providing people with the tools to enjoy these activities, enhanced retail environments create a sense of belonging and excitement that is near impossible to achieve by virtually ‘adding to cart’. And, as this revitalized energy continues to perpetrate the shopper-sphere, developers are repurposing the land and structures of existing malls and facilities for more community-driven engagement, function and connection.

Leading the charge are big tech companies like Google who turned heads back in 2021 when it opened the doors to its first ever physical store in New York City. More showroom than traditional retail outlet, the facility includes a ‘workshop space’ reserved for sub-brand events such as photography lessons with Pixel, cooking demos with Nest, YouTube concerts and more. Apple is also banking on physical stores, expanding its retail operations with a strategy that includes doubling down on in-store events and experiences beyond shopping.

©EDSA | Insights | Galleria Mall

Likewise, walking trails, public art, water features and centralized green lawns programmed with children’s play areas have become highly demanded amenities as these retail spaces are brought back to life to life. Now more than ever, designs must focus on creating hubs of activity, where multi-generational groups can converse with one another while still being able to access the stores and offerings that speak to individual preferences. This approach has proved effective with some of the nation’s largest shopping destinations, such as the Mall of America in Minnesota and the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, continuing to expand on their entertainment arsenals with family-oriented attractions, improved pedestrian circulation, transit centers and hotel offerings.

There is no question that in-person retail is reemerging – but it is being reimagined and blended with virtual buyer environments. The brands and retail developers who successfully achieve a synergy between online and in-person will be uniquely positioned to capture new customers, retain their existing ones and expand into new markets – a retail trifecta!