How ‘Bricks’ and ‘Clicks’ Drive Shopping Malls in Malaysia

est. 4 min read

by Susan Fong (Research Manager) for Focus Malaysia edition Nov 10-16, 2018

Malaysian shopping malls have first evolved from street shop supermarkets and department stores in the 1970s, to integrated megamalls spanning 2 million sq ft net lettable area, some 30-40 years later.

These monolithic marketplaces are kings of ‘Variety’ – satisfying a convergence of physical and emotional needs and wants (shopping, food, entertainment, social, leisure) under one roof. 

The digital age under Industry 4.0, however, brings conveniences at the click of a finger – smartphones, cloud storage, Internet of things (IoT), wearables, big data analytics. E-shopping enables us to shop anytime, anywhere, easily.

How will this impact malls? 


Malaysia is currently home to 32.38 million people, with more than half being e-commerce users who contributed USD 1.31 billion e-commerce revenue in 2018. This is expected to grow to 2.53 billion USD by 2022 (source: Statistica). As a comparison, the estimated gross retail sales in Malaysia in 2017, was USD 104.7 billion. Overall thus, e-commerce still does not make up a large percentage of retail sales, although it is expected to grow in the future.

Malaysia’s adoption of e-retail has been much slower than that of China, due to the lack of advancement in technology and prevalence of digital payment. Annual visitor traffic to top e-commerce platforms are below that of major malls in the Klang Valley, but again, these are expected to grow.

The emergence of trustworthy websites such as Lazada, 11street, Shopee,, Carousell and many more, topped with fast, and free deliveries, attractive discounts and free return policies continues to push consumers from ‘bricks’ to ‘clicks’. 


Source: Stratos Consulting Group Sdn Bhd

Numerous shopper experience sessions conducted by Stratos show that the most enjoyable experiences are where basic conveniences are met, and where people can connect with their family and friends physically. Due to the hot weather, lack of comfortable outdoor recreation places and security concerns, Malaysians also like to spend leisure time in air-conditioned places such as malls. This does not change with the digital revolution.
Thus the key task for shopping malls is the design of spaces that enhance these basic conveniences and enable fruitful social interaction.

Mall developers have to relook at the design of each shopper facility and service to ensure that the shopper’s experience is at the core of the design approach. While it is always assumed that one has to “get the basics right”, it is also still common to run into a series of frustrating incidences with regard to shopper facilities and services at a modern mall. These include:

  • Insufficient car park bays;
  • Car park ingress / egress and circulation issues;
  • Non-strategic or non-visible locations of elevators and escalators;
  • Insufficient provision and inadequate maintenance of washrooms;
  • Lack of baby’s and mother’s nursing rooms or they are not well-equipped;
  • Poor customer service; and
  • Safety and security issues in the car park and mall.

Retail spaces in Malaysia are also increasingly incorporating more place-making elements that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being. For example, Eco World’s Labs’ series of retail spaces stand out with their strong recreational elements such as parks and community-centric sports facilities. Other new developments such as Sunway’s Cistrine Hub and Gamuda Land’s Quayside Mall and Village Square are also incorporating community-centric outdoor recreational elements.

In Bangkok, Central Festival Eastville mall is a good example of a suburban mall which incorporates attractively designed community spaces such as a garden, children’s playground, pets’ park, jogging and cycling trails, for shoppers to enjoy. Its bookstore anchor tenant, B2S Think Space, provides patrons with reading / IT zones, children’s play area, café, co-working space, as well as events and workshops. It has transformed the mall into not just a place for shopping, eating and traditional entertainment (cineplex), but for people to conduct their daily activities and hobbies, such as work, study, play, sports and recreation. In other words, a place for people to live out their daily experience.

In Bangkok city centre where tourists prevail, EmQuartier mall has also incorporated a strong recreational and experiential element in the form of a beautifully designed Quartier Water Garden (semi-outdoor garden with waterfall and children’s adventure park). This attracts both tourists and locals.

Complementing each other

To adapt to the online shopping age. Malls are increasingly looking at increasing their food & beverage mix, to as high as 40% of total trade mix, and reducing other categories such as fashion.

Meanwhile, many retailers worldwide have realised the benefits of honing the synergistic relationship between bricks and clicks, developing omni-channels to create a seamless shopping experience for consumers. Such complementary offers will get more common in shopping malls.

  • Alibaba Group is rolling out cashless and unattended convenience stores such as Hema grocery stores, Tao Café convenience store as well as its first brick-and-mortar shopping mall in Hangzhou, China, dubbed More Mall.
  • Amazon has continued to delve into traditional retail by acquiring organic food chain company, Whole Foods Market.
  • Starbucks partnered with Alibaba to build an in-store “augmented reality” experience for its Shanghai Reserved Roastery in December last year. A specialised page opens on the Taobao app when one enters the store, with one of its main features being a visual explanation of the roasting process. Costumers get virtual badges in the app by scanning items in the store.
  • Unmanned BingoBox convenience stores, originating in China, are now open at Bukit Ceylon and Shell Jalan Tun Razak, both in Kuala Lumpur.
  • South Korean retail giant Lotta launched its first online shopping website in October 2016, while Isetan opened its first online store on Tmall Global the following month. Not falling behind, more big boys such as AEON launched in Vietnam in January 2017 while IKEA launched its online store in Japan in April 2017. On the home front, 1 Utama in the Klang Valley, recently launched its online mall OneShop.

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