As the U.S. has reopened, people have re-engaged in physical trade, but maintaining that momentum is the most important thing for mall and mall owners. In a post-pandemic era (as long as this becomes a full reality), people will be more focused on experiences than ever after long periods of time with very little to do outside their home. This is not new, but COVID has generally been a trend accelerator rather than a creator of news, and this may be no more evident than in the trend toward people gravitating toward an experience. We discussed how augmented reality (RA) has the ability to attract buyers within spaces as an additive layer to experience. RA is easier to combine with the real world than virtual reality (VR), but what if people want to get away from reality? Virtual reality may not yet be easily integrated into real shopping, but virtual reality experiences can be a powerful enough attraction to get people off their couches and into a mall.
Technical executives dream of a world where Peloton-type exercise subscription formats are transformed into virtual virtual reality experiences. Bucknell University in Pennsylvania recreates the visit to the higher education campus through personalized virtual reality that allows prospective students to have the chance to stand in the middle of a court at a basketball game or walk around the library. Volkswagon runs an interactive in-car advertising experience campaign on Pinterest that allows users to look around as if they were driving.
There are immersive experiences in all industries, if they haven’t already. Leveraging augmented and virtual reality will become a routine for brands that want to guide potential customers through product discovery with basic convenience.
Now these experiences have also caught the attention of homeowners, with more consumers heading to the mall in search of virtual emotions. As more malls focus on what’s coming in this new era of consumerism, virtual reality brings some important XP to malls. (This is a vernacular of games to gain experience points.)
And while it’s not necessarily a new tactic for malls, emerging virtual reality companies are learning from past virtual reality traps and adapting to changing consumer preferences. You may remember The Void in particular. It was reported that the crown jewel of virtual reality arcades paid off a key loan in November 2020, leading to the loss of its partnership with Disney, which provided some of its most popular RV experiences. through Star Wars and The Avengers. But attendance issues were already growing when Disney began bringing larger Star Wars games to home VR headsets, the price of which of admission has been declining every year.
The entry price for virtual reality experiences will only be more affordable as technology innovates rapidly. The key for retailers will be to create experiences that cannot be replicated at home.
Immersive experience energy
Electric Gamebox, for starters, works hard breathing fresh air into the physical trade. The UK-based operation has raised $ 11 million to revive commercial locations with immersive gaming pods. The digital and immersive adventure reinvents how video games are played using projection maps, touch screens, 3D motion tracking and surround sound without headphones. According to Electric Gamebox, the experiences include anything from chasing aliens, searching for rare Martian materials, or saving the queen’s corgis, all in the name of bringing people together in the shared camaraderie of video games.
With the first location recently opened at Grandscape Mall, just north of Dallas, the company has an impressive goal of more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and UK in 2026. Brookfield has already announced that it will incorporate the operation into its real estate portfolio next year at the Oakbrook Center in Chicago; The Woodlands Mall in Houston; Fashion Place in Salt Lake City; Victoria Gardens in San Bernardino, California; and Ballston Quarter in Arlington, VA.
Sandbox VR is a good indicator of success in this field. This experience of shooting zombies, breaking swords, hunting for treasure that took over commercial spaces also saw a terrible path ahead when it hit COVID-19. The company had to close all its locations due to the pandemic and ended up firing 80 percent of its staff. But since reopening this spring, its 11 stores in the United States, Canada and Asia have seen ticket sales and foot traffic rise above pre-pandemic levels and now Sandbox VR has signed a lease for the same Las Vegas location that previously used The Void, with an opening scheduled for this summer. They are now on track to make a profit next year.
Filling the gap
A hyper-reality entertainment experience called JUMP by the creator of The Void also wants to take the opportunity to bring more immersive experiences to the mall. JUMP’s first location was recently announced to open at American Dream in New Jersey in late 2021. The simulated experience includes a custom JUMP wing suit and a virtual reality helmet. Participants experience a mix of suspension and wind systems that mimic the extreme thrill of jumping off the cliff, minus the danger.
American Dream features an unmatched mix of more than 3 million square feet of world-class entertainment, retail and catering on the outskirts of New York City. After years of development, the New Jersey mall opened its doors in October 2019, shortly before the pandemic forced it to close, which brought bad news to the selected collection. of iconic shops. While the physical trade is on track to recover, with The NPD Group reporting recent in-store sales of $ 1.7 billion higher than last year and $ 400 million more than two years ago; . But with essential time, American Dream is looking to its side of entertainment to make sure it is able to make payments for the nearly $ 3 billion loan that was needed to fund the development.
Can entertainment lead to the recovery of American dreams? I think it is very possible. With 55 percent of the space dedicated to entertainment, the water park, the indoor ski slope, the new JUMP experience, among others, will serve to appeal to consumers of immersive experiences that can encourage the growth of walking traffic in shopping malls.
The game speeds up
According to the Gaming Spotlight report, consumers spent $ 1.7 billion a week on mobile games during the first quarter, 40% more than pre-pandemic levels and mobile game downloads grew 30%. And, according to a new IDC and LoopMe report, 75 percent of the pandemic-driven increase in mobile gaming will persist indefinitely.
The need for retailers to be creative in securing their market share is approaching the critical mission. While most tenants won’t re-create a thrill jumping off the cliff, the smaller experiences that can happen through the cell phone are a starting point.
Take for example the luxury fashion house Balenciaga. The brand created an online game called Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, to showcase its Fall 21 collection. Created with inclusion in mind, players were invited to choose a fighter from various models and try to conquer. the world, whether they aspired to carry the collection or not.
At the end of the day, you can’t shop in a store or sit in a restaurant without seeing a multitude of heads crouched over the devices. We live to entertain ourselves and the winning retailers will discover how to bring the experience to life through the imaginative lens that technology offers.