With today’s challenges to the shopping industry, operators now largely know that they must offer a holistic guest experience that goes beyond shopping. Mall of America has been at the leading edge of this transformation for 25 years.
It’s no secret– the shopping center of 1960 is facing intense challenges here in 2017. We are all familiar with reports that up to 25% of shopping centers may close in the next 5 years, an oft-cited stat in endless news media obituaries of the “dying” shopping mall. While the reality is not so doom-and-gloom as this, shopper demands truly are shifting from a simple cluster of shops to a more holistic experience.
While few centers have the luxury of adding an indoor theme park, aquarium, and flight simulator, Mall of America is a world leader in experiential shopping. While those major attractions are certainly a key part of MOA’s offering, their team also offers something radically simple and important– the chance to connect with MOA on a human level.
We sat down with Nate Sandell, Social Media Community Specialist at Mall of America, to learn more about the experience MOA offers at their world-renowned asset just outside of Minneapolis, MN.
“[MOA] is always looking for ways to enhance the guest experience; what can we do that you can’t get by just shopping online. We can combine the best in retail, general entertainment, dining and attractions.”
Since opening its doors in 1992, MOA has been the number one shopping destination in the entire United States. In addition to an incredible tenant mix of internationally-loved brands to local retailers (such as Rybicki Cheese selling the finest dairy from neighboring Wisconsin), MOA has always offered entertainment for the whole family. It started with a movie theater, restaurants and an indoor amusement park, but it has grown into a Willy Wonka-esque place of wonder, with attractions like mini-golf, an aquarium, a Lego emporium, and a mirror maze, among a myriad other things.
“Guests are looking for those types of experiences,” Sandell says, “That’s what enhances the experience when they come here, are those attractions, is that entertainment value that they can’t get anywhere else.”
MOA’s innovative idea of mixing retail with entertainment has served as an example to malls across the U.S. and even the world; many shopping centers throughout the country and around globe have followed suit. Still, perhaps few seem to do it quite as well as MOA. These types of unique experiences are exactly what draw guests to this monolithic shopping center. Statistics prove this to be true. According to its website, MOA receives 40 million visitors annually and it generates nearly $2 billion in economic impact annually for the state of Minnesota.
Yet in many ways, ‘guest experience’ at MOA is defined by something much simpler than their Paul Bunyan Log Chute ride or the daily performances in their stunning rotunda. MOA’s leadership is perhaps the most impressive in the customer engagement and service they provide.
Before, during, and after your visit, MoA staff are standing by to engage through social media, web chat, text messaging, and more. These aren’t the impersonal and inaccurate chatbots you might see from other centers– they’re breathing human beings who know MOA and care deeply about your experience. MOA even offers the opportunity to meet these folks in person through occasional social media pop-up lounges with prize giveaways and comfortable furniture providing an appreciated break from walking all 5.6 million square feet of MOA.
MOA leverages human digital messaging to assist with “any trip planning questions they may have, any questions they have while they’re here, and helping find ways to get the answers to the questions they have.”
With those channels wide open, MOA remains attuned to its guests’ needs. MOA’s service messaging, for instance, uncovered frequent requests for more space for nursing mothers, driving the addition of several peaceful and private nursing spaces.
This exceptional service is what precisely entices MOA’s guests to return year after year and what makes the venerable megamall the favorite shopping destination of shoppers around the globe.