Regardless of the type of business you’re in, there is one factor you cannot ignore. The customer’s experience, with your brand, itself is as important as the product or service you are offering. A good brand experience will almost always ensure a positive outcome. Brand experience is made up of many factors and, as a result, the physical environment in which business takes place can often be overlooked.

This is obvious to anyone who has ever stepped foot in a hospital, hair salon, school, office or shopping mall.  A customer will enter a place of business and almost immediately know how they feel about that business without even viewing or testing the product or service offered.  The environment, in which the experience is rendered, is vital in the consumer decision-making process.

For all intents and purposes, let’s look at a shopping mall.  A person may walk into one and immediately know whether or not they enjoy being there, however, they do not actually consider what it is they do or don’t enjoy about it.  While consumers may not always be conscious of this, it still affects them largely.

It is important that customers are always made to feel comfortable both physically and psychologically.  A building, especially a shopping mall, must have large amounts of open space in which people are able to manoeuvre without being in the others’ space or having others in their space. They must feel comfortable in knowing that there are easily located escape routes and bathrooms positioned around the building.  It is always important to have seating situated in convenient areas for consumers who feel the need to rest or who are waiting for service. Ergonomics plays a big role in this, as seating, toilets, waste bins and basins all need to be accessible to both the ‘average’ person and to the people who don’t fit ‘average’ ideals. Ramps or elevators need to be incorporated for disabled consumers.  There should also be enough light- artificial or natural for consumers to see clearly too.

It is important for the layout of a mall to be well planned.  Tenants must be chosen according to the needs of the consumers in that area.  Varying the tenant mix will ensure all visitors are satisfied.  Grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, specialty stores and service related stores should be included in this mix. Parking must be simple and easily accessed and should not be located too far from the actual shops.  As mentioned above, strategic placement of bathrooms, entrances, seating and waste disposal should be well thought out. The interior of the mall should be warm and inviting in order to ensure the consumers feel welcomed and free to be there.  The goal is to make customers want to be there which, in return, will increase their spending at the mall.  Slight decorative touchessuch as plants and colour accents can change the entire atmosphere.

Consumers must be made to feel safe in the shopping mall environment.  Safety from physical harm, the weather elements and any other threat, is necessary.  There should be shelter from the elements as well as implementation of security features such as cameras and armed, non-invasive protection.

Obvious branding of shops and businesses within the mall must be incorporated into the design, as this makes consumers aware of what is available to them in terms of products and services.

Shopping mall developers may take all these concepts into consideration, however, there still needs to be a pulling force that attracts customers to the mall to begin with.  The exterior of the mall is like the book cover- it will be judged first and, for this reason needs to be eye catching.  Take a look at some of these shopping mall interiors and exteriors.

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