PARIS — Green plants, not computer screens, are what customers would like to see in the shopping centers of the future — and that counts even for the hyperconnected Generation Y, a French study published on Tuesday found.
The report, conducted by commercial property developer Unibail-Rodamco’s L’Observatoire du Shopping unit in partnership with market research firm Ipsos, questioned three generations of French people on their shopping habits.
They were divided into explorers, aged 16 to 24; multitaskers, aged 25 to 54, and strollers, aged 55 and upwards. While all have different needs, they agreed that shopping centers need to be about more than goods, seeing them instead as a place to meet and enjoy collective activities and experiences.
“What is the future of shopping malls? I really think it is as a vector for social cohesion,” Nelly Pais-Pereira, head of strategic marketing and events at Unibail-Rodamco, said at a press conference held at its UR Lab innovation center on the outskirts of Paris.
“There is the idea of the village square, a space for conviviality. What we are hearing and what our customers are telling us is that they want more meaning. They want to be able to get together and share,” she added.
Asked to rate six archetypes of future shopping centers, focused on different functions and needs, 50 percent of respondents favored a space that includes lots of greenery and light, making it by far the most popular option. Another 45 percent also wanted it to be a welcoming space in the spirit of a market square.
A highly connected shopping center with advanced digital applications was the least popular option with just 13 percent of favorable responses overall. Even among the 16-20 group, it garnered only 27 percent of votes. Entertainment — in the form of amusement attractions and shows — rated second-lowest for these young participants in the survey.
“It’s obvious that entertainment is not a winning archetype. What surprised us among young people is the search for meaning,” noted Thibaut Nguyen, director of trends and forecasting at Ipsos Public Affairs.
“That absolutely doesn’t mean that tomorrow’s shopping centers should not be technological. The technology component is inherent, it’s an indispensable condition of modernity in every sector, that much is obvious. On the other hand, it probably means that it must not be the core element of the space,” he added.
Sociologist Gilles Lipovestky, commenting the results of the survey, underlined the universal search for well-being, saying it trumped the stereotype of hyper-individualism fostered by the rapid spread of technology.
“What we are hearing from everyone is a yearning for atmosphere, relations, human and ecological quality of life, and not only deep discounts,” he remarked.
The online survey was conducted in March among a sample of 2,016 people aged 16 to 70. Unibail-Rodamco owns 72 shopping centers in Europe, including 24 in France.