Why malls are adding Instagramable pop-ups to your shopping trip

Increasingly, select shopping centres in Calgary are picking up on the need for that esthetic pic, or artsy selfie, with designed and stylized sets to draw people in.

Expert says competing with Amazon takes a creative edge

Artsy and very Instagramable spots are popping up in Calgary's shopping malls. (Courtesy Soutchentre Mall/Helen Pike CBC)

You don't need a Sears studio for an adorable baby photo anymore — these days, all it takes is a cellphone camera and beautiful backdrop.

Increasingly, shopping centres in Calgary are picking up on the desire for an esthetic pic or artsy selfie with designed and stylized sets to draw visitors in.

Donna Dumont is an assistant marketing professor at Mount Royal University. She says this is just another way for malls to compete — especially with the online shopping giants.

The Set has 6 different coloured vignettes to choose from and encourages photos and exploration. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

"Shopping malls more and more are facing a lot of competition," Dumont said. "Increasingly, they have to really offer consumers an experience." 

She says the saving grace for these retail centres is the next generation.

"Those 13- to 21-year-olds, they are not as much online shopping, they like the experience of the shopping mall," she said. "They'd like to do that comparative shopping."

Last year, Chroma brought vibrancy to Southcentre and attracted hoards of interested visitors. (Southcentre Mall)

Southcentre's marketing manager Alexandra Velosa says it all started with an installation called Chroma.

"The artwork was inspired by the name of the installation, Chroma, meaning purity and intensity of colour," said Velosa.

The spaces included bright colours and textures, each with their own distinctive settings separated by walls.

Velosa says it brought new faces to the mall — some with outfit changes to fit the decor, some with their own professional photographers.

"We're always looking for opportunities to connect with the community," Velosa said. "We feel that by creating a space where people come interact, have fun, and then get some insta moments, it's a great opportunity to connect with them and get them to come and visit us often."

Instead of putting up an ad or a blank white wall while a vacant storefront waits to reopen, Southcentre is turning the space into an artist's canvas. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

And that's a concept they're building on. 

Now, when a store closes, instead of putting up a wall of white and printing poster ads, Velosa says it's an opportunity to create a canvas for art, and for artists to play with. 

"We are very excited to support arts and culture and use this as an opportunity to help people build memories and create connections with our community," she said.

The Valentine's installation at The Core draws a crowd before shops open, with people stopping for photos. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

Dumont says it can help malls stand out, by sprinkling in this artistic whimsy.

"They need to continue to, you know, entice them to the mall and have an experience there that they can relate to," Dumont said. "So that's why this is such a great strategy for them."

At The Core, for the romantic month of February, there's a bit of nostalgia on display. And the so-called sweethearts are already drawing people in for selfies and baby photos. 

Cellphone photo shoots are common in malls now. Some even bring their own professional photographer to grab a polished image. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

"With the power of social media, this kind of just travels word of mouth," said acting marketing director Caron Anderson. "It's a great way to bring people in." 

And it's a great way to advertise, too, because people snapping pictures will share them online. She says maybe people who see their hashtags or location will come down for their own photos and discover what The Core has to offer.

"It's more about the experience and kind of bringing that vibrancy back into the centres. I think it's just a unique way to drive people down to the mall." 


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