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Shopping Malls in Dubai Research Paper


Abstract

The purpose of this research is to understand various factors that are responsible for influencing customers’ decision pertaining to selection of shopping malls. While studying about the preferences of shoppers, factors such as ambience, convenience, infrastructure, marketing, safety, and security are considered. When considered individually, these factors have their own attributes that are divided according to their nature.

The study was carried out at four shopping centres of Dubai: Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, Burjuman Centre, and Dubai Marine Mall. It is understood that now-a-days customers prefer better services clubbed with entertainment. Moreover, the new generation prefers to buy experiences rather than services and/or products. Managements of these shopping centres try hard to make their customers’ experience par excellence. Several methods are adopted to lure new customers and retain the existing ones.

Introduction

Dubai is one of the seven emirates of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is famous for its rich history and traditions. It has a society that, in spite of being bound by its culture and heritage, keeps pace with the global developments and requirements.

The religion followed in the emirate is Islam, the eternal principles of which are evident in its fabulous heritage that gives strength and motivation to its people from all walks of life. Dubai’s society gives utmost importance to family bonding that is considered to be a significant institution. It combines the softness of the East and technological developments of the West (The Dubai Code of Conduct, n.d., para. 2).

Dubai is probably one of the most preferred destinations for tourists who are more interested in shopping and this has developed a strong link between tourism and retail sectors. The huge inflow of tourists in Dubai has contributed towards making it the central point as far as shopping is concerned (Anwar & Sohail, 2004). While tourism is supposed to be a significant determinant of development of the retail business, rising urbanisation also contributes towards such development (Bagaeen, 2007).

Dubai’s retail industry seems to be at par with the emirate’s real estate business if monetary aspects are taken into consideration. When Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) was initiated in the year 1996, only a couple of shopping malls participated in it.

The number of shopping malls participating in the DSF has now increased to seventy. With the increase in participating shopping malls, the spending of people also increased six times by the year 2012. Dubai’s retail industry dominance is proved by the fabulous success of DSF where millions of shoppers from around the globe visit every year (Deulgaonkar, 2014).

With the increase in population and general awareness, there has been a simultaneous increase in consumer demand for better products and services. This has resulted in an increase in the number of global suppliers of such products. Such practice has increased competition in the retail market.

Consumers have high expectations from such retailers and in turn, retailers have to match or even exceed such expectations (Wong & Sohal, 2003). With ever-increasing global players, there ought to be similarity in products at some time or the other; probably that time has come now. Shopping centres that have similar products (may be different brands though) want to have an upper edge by providing exceptional customer service to their customers.

Initially, goods and services were well-defined and considered to be two different things altogether because both had their own set of characteristics. Goods are things that we can see, touch, feel, and smell. Once purchased, goods become tangible assets of the buyer. On the other hand, services are intangible and cannot be seen, touched, felt, or smelled (Rathmell, 1966).

A customer can resell his/her goods but once a service has been availed, it cannot be resold because it has already been used. Comparing goods and services, it is easier to evaluate goods based on their appearance, but since services cannot be seen, it becomes very difficult to evaluate them unless they are used. It means that the features of services are intangible (Zeithaml, 1981). It implies that goods and services are two different things that cannot be compared.

There are significant differences between goods and services due to the fact that evaluation of both of them is done in a different manner (Hartman & Lindgren, 1993). As far as shopping centres are considered, it seems that both goods and services are crucial for achieving success. In addition to these two, the overall experience of customers makes a big difference.

Statement of purpose

Dubai is well known to attract tourists especially for shopping sprees. It boasts of having several grand malls, including The Dubai Mall that stands at number seven among the greatest malls of the world. Considering the extent of Dubai’s global popularity and it being considered the region’s shopping epitome, it becomes imperative to comprehend the conduct and experience of tourists.

Almost all the significant global brands can be found in shopping centres of the emirate and as such, it becomes difficult for shoppers to differentiate between such shopping centres based on the offered products alone. The marketing strategy of global brands requires them to cater to the needs of people from all walks of life and at all possible places and as a matter of fact, such brands sell their products in all the malls.

In such a circumstance, the only thing that matters and differentiates one mall from the other is the service being offered and the shopping experience of shoppers in these malls. It is understood that shoppers would prefer a shopping mall where they can get same merchandise (as in other shopping malls) but with a special touch of better service and overall experience (Singh & Sahay, 2012).

The merchandise available in Dubai’s shopping malls can be found in similar malls around the globe also but people, from higher income group, prefer to buy from Dubai because of the excellent services and entertainment being offered and unmatched shopping experience. Administrations of such shopping malls can ensure better shopping experience by relating policies with the anticipations of customers. In order to do so, it is important to understand the perceptions of shoppers regarding better shopping experience. The main objectives of this research would be as under:

  1. To know details of some major shopping malls of Dubai,
  2. To identify aspects responsible for shoppers’ experience in Dubai shopping malls,
  3. To identify the significance of such aspects, and
  4. To suggest ways to improve shopping experience of shoppers.

Literature Review

Customer behaviour can be witnessed in three kinds of customer actions namely, shopping, purchasing and using the products and/or services. There are numerous literatures on purchasing and using attributes of customers but not many scholars have dealt with their shopping conduct.

Like for example, shopping malls are an important part of economic structure of the United States but even then, not much has been written on this field (Bloemer & Ruyter, 1998). Shopping conduct of customers depicts the demand of products. It has been noticed that clothes, grocery, compliments, and household goods are among the frequently shopped products (Assael, 1987).

Shopping is not necessarily done to buy some products but it is also done to satiate emotional desires; and also to have some thrilling experience. Most of the retail shoppers prefer to find some recreation activities in shopping centres. Such activities can relieve their shopping stress (Bellenger & Korgaonkar, 1980).

Considering this aspect and in order to sustain the competition, it is necessary for shopkeepers and shopping mall management to try and make shoppers’ experience different from other shopping malls and a memorable one (Kim, Jikeyong, & Minsung, 2005).

Shoppers expect entertainment during shopping and as such, managements of shopping malls provide it by containing such services that are offered by retailers. Nonetheless, this is not the only manner in which entertainment is provided for the customers. There are several ways in which shopping experience of shoppers can be made enjoyable. In order to achieve this, it is important to first understand the factors that can enhance shopping experience of customers.

Several studies have been conducted in order to understand such factors. It is a tested fact that shopping at shopping centres is done as a result of relative decision (LeHew & Fairhurst, 2000). According to Wakefield and Baker (1998), there are four factors that can influence the decision (pertaining to choice of shopping centre) of shoppers: design, arrangement, ambience, and diversity.

These factors consist of various attributes such as elevation, interior design, lighting arrangement, air conditioning, medley of different products, easy access, and music. Such attributes entice customers to spend more time in shopping centres. There are chances that during such extended stays customers might buy something else that they did not intend to.

In a trial study, Matilla and Wirtz (2001) considered the impact of music and fragrance on the decision of shoppers. The study evaluated effect of these traits separately and also when clubbed together. Reimers and Clulow (2009) examined the importance of convenience for customers of shopping centres.

They stresses on its eminence regardless of the kind of shopping area. At the same time, they considered aspects such as space comfort, parking area, pleasure attributes, and other services being offered. Ease of access (distance and time) is another measurement of comfort contemplated in point of interest by Huff and Rust (1984). Their ‘retail gravity model’ envisaged mall support focused around the guideline of expense (availability) against usefulness (size).

Management of shopping centres need to develop trust among their customers and create customer value. “Customer value is a customer’s perceived preference for and evaluation of those product attribute performances, and consequences arising from use that facilitate (or block) achieving the customer’s goals and purposes in use situations” (Yamamoto, n.d., p. 549).

According to this definition, the customer’s value increases or decreases depending on the level of service and quality provided by the shopping malls. This means that the customer decides after experiencing a particular product or service. Customers’ experiences are better if the expected results from the products or services are achieved.

According to Court, Elzinga, Mulder, and Vetvik (2009), better value for products/services can be created by influencing them at the time when they are in need of that product/service. Like for example, now-a-days electronic products are displayed live in showrooms. Prospective buyers can have the experience of the products and decide their preferences.

For a customer, value doesn’t mean only the financial aspect. For them, value means, “trust, affection, comfort, and easiness of use” (Korhonen, 2012, p. 10). The value for customers can be increased by following certain criteria. Firstly, by increasing the customer base and subsequently the production capacity, business will flourish and the value for the customers will increase.

Secondly, the value for customers can be increased by increasing the profit margin. This can be done by decreasing overhead expenses. Shopping malls’ distributors can play a vital role in increasing the value for customers. Finally, the kind of service provided by the distributors to customers and the consequent trust that develops can increase the value for customers.

Shopping centres are places where both goods and services are offered. The management offers various services to attract customers while the shops offer best possible goods at reasonable prices. More in-depth study reveals that for goods, there exists a demand. They can be preserved and ownership can be claimed. They are meant solely for the person who owns them but can be exchanged with the owner’s consent.

People can trade their goods in the free market and can earn profit (Parry, Newnes & Huang, 2011). Such features are not witnessed among services. They cannot be preserved and ownership cannot be claimed. Services are meant for a limited period of time and the same services can be rendered to various customers. The person who is availing any service cannot transfer or trade it for profit (Lusch & Vargo, 2011).

Today, distinguishing goods and services has reached a point of contention among authors. Vargo and Lusch (2004) argue that there is no specific difference between goods and services. According to them, both services and goods are based on customer satisfaction hence both are same as far as the customer is concerned.

They further claim that, “Service is defined as the application of specialised competences (operant resources, knowledge and skills), through deeds, processes, and performances for the benefit of another entity or the entity itself” (Vargo & Lusch, 2008, p. 26). If we consider the customers’ point of view, Vargo and Lusch are true to the extent that customers want better service whether they are paying for some goods or services.

There are four characteristics that customers generally look for in a service namely, “Intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity, and perishability” (Wolak, Kalafatis, & Harris, 1998, p. 22). This means that for the success of shopping centres, services hold more importance than goods. However, the overall aim remains customer satisfaction.

The success of any business depends solely on the satisfaction of its customers. Business owners need to understand their customers’ expectations and needs and make necessary preparations to arrange the required products. Different customers have different requirement and choices and as such, in retail business, the business owners have to have an assortment of products (McPartlin & Dugal, 2011). “Service-profit chain establishes relationships between profitability, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity” (Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser, & Schlesinger, 1994, p. 164).

It is understood that profit and performance of a shopping mall depend mainly on the allegiance shown by customers. Obviously, customers will swear allegiance only if they are satisfied. Satisfaction is mostly dependent on the kind and quality of services being offered. A shopping mall’s market image depends on the satisfaction of its employees as well. How are employees satisfied? Well, it depends on the shopping mall’s policies pertaining to the employees (Heskett et al., 1994).

In addition to the factors and attributes mentioned above, there are some general aspects that can influence the customers. It is not just the excellent customer service that makes an impact. Things such as quality, variety, access of information over internet, face value, waiting time, and taking responsibility matter a lot to customers (West, 2014) but above all, it is employee satisfaction that can do wonders.

If employees are satisfied with their jobs and the organisation they work for, then they would certainly appreciate the products and offer better customer service. Employee satisfaction can also help in getting innovative ideas about improving customer satisfaction and maximising sales.

The persuasion of offered services on shoppers’ behaviour, decision and assessment has been examined, especially in the retail segment (Turley & Milliman, 2000; Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2006). Certain attributes such as music, odour, and lighting can be controlled in order to understand the cause and effect correlation. Considering this possibility, such attributes have been of great interest to researchers (Ezeh & Harris, 2007).

Like for example, in order to understand the impact of music on shoppers’ behaviour, different tracks can be played ranging from classical to rock music. Even the volume can be decreased or increased to study the impact. Once an optimum result is achieved, the same can be followed in future. Similarly, different fragrances can be tested for their impact on shoppers and the best ones can be shortlisted and utilised.

According to Bell (1999) and Frasquet, Gil, and Molla (2001), there are five atmospheric aspects that are considered while studying effect on shoppers; these are ambience, colour, interior decoration, music, and plan. Such aspects are critical because shoppers consider them while perceiving about shopping centres (Smith & Burns, 1996).

The colours used for vertical and horizontal surfaces (like walls and flooring) in a shopping centre have an impact on shoppers. Soft and light colours are soothing to eyes, whereas dark and gaudy colours pinch the eyes. So designers have to consider this aspect while designing the interiors. Also, atmospheric aspects are believed to kindle shoppers’ excitement at shopping centres (Wakefield & Baker, 1998).

Today, when consumers have several options to choose from, they buy experiences instead of goods and services (Beard, 2014). This particular trait of the customers’ choice and preference has been noticed during the past couple of years. Initially, marketing was based on goods that were manufactured and traded (Cartwright, 2012).

As there were incessant developments in the industrial field, new methods of marketing were developed in order to get better bargains for products and approach maximum possible customers.

Growth of similar industries also acted as a catalyst for innovations in marketing. Intensive global competition necessitated the organisations to concentrate on the satisfaction factor of customers. Gradually, rendering better service became the main criterion for businesses. The Industrial Revolution proved to be a shot in the arm for marketing as a system (Defining Marketing, n.d., para. 2).

“Marketing is a management process that identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements – and makes sure it’s done efficiently and profitably” (Spreckley & Hunt, 2008, p. 4). In other words, marketing is all about generating incredible features (of products and/or services) that might entice customers to buy.

Involving management in marketing makes things move systematically. Having a perfect business strategy helps in attaining better business. Business technique, in a fused manner, is the direction and opportunity of a shopping mall in the long-term which allows it to accomplish aggressive benefits through setting up its sources within a complicated atmosphere to fulfil the needs of the market and objectives of the stakeholders (Dess, 2010).

In today’s world, when communication has become fast and easy, people have the liberty to express their opinion online and exchange their experiences with others, based on which people decide on products and services. Such opinions are read by people across the globe.

It is obvious that after reading such opinions people get influenced and believe that whatever is written is correct. Such opinions matter a lot when buying a product or service is concerned. Reviews about products and services are posted online for people to read and decide their preferences (Ahmed, 2013).

Such reviews are based on experiences that come from using certain products and/or services. Most people, who read such reviews, get influenced and believe what the reviews suggest. So, it can be presumed that they are buying the experiences of others. Similarly, self-experiences of people play a crucial role in their future purchases of the same product/service (Rosenbloom, 2011). So, it is obvious that people buy experience instead of any product/service.

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, another important factor that plays a crucial role in the success of a business (here, shopping centre) is word of mouth publicity. Word of mouth publicity is a crucial factor in increasing or decreasing the value of a product (Buttle, 1998). Customers are neither friends nor enemies of the shopping malls that manufacture products. Customers form opinions about products or services according to their own experiences.

Such experiences might be good or bad, depending on the quality and value for price of the product or service. It is human tendency to share their experiences with people they know. According to a survey conducted by Gesenhues (2013), almost 100% of people earning more than 150,000 dollars, usually shared their good and/or bad experiences with their acquaintances. Other categories mentioned in the chart also had the tendency of sharing their good/bad experiences with people.

Under these circumstances and in order to achieve better performance, it has become imperative for businesses to concentrate on customer satisfaction. Due to the increasing global demand of various products, there is a stiff competition among shopping malls to garner new customers and retain the existing ones (Ka-wai, 2009).

Success of shopping malls can be attributed to the loyalty of customers. This study will elaborate on the various factors that are responsible for determining customers’ loyalty towards shopping malls. Various factors such as location of shopping malls, proximity, services being offered, innovation, recreation, and entertainment have been considered to be some of the factors that entice customer to choose shopping malls (Fatima & Rasheed, 2012).

Loyalty is basically an amalgamation of persistent benefaction and encouraging approach (Molina & Saura, 2008). Kotler and Keller (2007) define loyalty as the attitude of customers to purchase and repurchase any specific goods or services irrespective of the prevailing conditions in the shopping mall. Such conditions might change with time as a result of different marketing strategies being adopted by the management (Manana, 2009).

In the same line of thought, Brunner, Stocklin, and Opwis, (2008) suggested that the possibility of repurchasing, long-term association, and/or changing manners have an impact on the behavioural loyalty of customers. As far as the attitude of customers is concerned, it is governed by preference for a particular brand, irrespective of other better brands available in the market, approval of price, and intention to promote favourite products and services (Szczepańska & Gawron, 2011).

Dick and Basu (1994) related the approach of customers to their recurring purchasing in deciding loyalty towards shopping centres. According to Kheng, Mahamad, & Ramayah (2010) loyalty of customers is determined by the number of times that they repurchase any particular product or service.

Having considered opinions of various scholars, it is understood that loyalty of customers depends on various factors that are described below:

Environment

Global experiences suggest that shopping centres facilitate interface, meetings, and harmonisation among people and as such, they have become an important part of human life (Kotler, 1974). The environment of shopping centres decides the foot traffic (McGoldrick & Greenland, 1994).

Such environment includes the prevailing atmospherics (Ahn, Akkurt, & Jin, 2006). It depends on the management how it manages its policies in order to attract more customers. Colour and light are two such atmospherics that can change the customers’ perspective about shopping centres. Other atmospherics such as music being played, lay out, and odour are capable of making the environment conducive to customer attraction (Kent, 2007).

It has become imperative for shop owners within shopping centres to offer a thrilling experience to their customers and at the same time ensure that their requirements and expectations are met (Diep, & Sweeney, 2008).

This particular aspect is significant due to the fact that customers have the tendency to make up their minds and build perceptions by seeing and feeling the atmospherics of shopping centres (Pan & Zinkhan, 2006). Several studies have established a link between shopping centre environment and increasing business (Seock, 2009).

Image

People have a tendency to perceive organisations’ achievements and deeds as their prestige and popularity. Such prestige and popularity convince people to use products and services of organisations. Obviously, good prestige and more popularity mean better business for organisations (Ou & Abratt, 2006). Finn and Louviere (1996) stressed upon the importance of prestige for a shopping centre in order to influence choices of customers (Sit, Merrilees, & Birch, 2003).

Further, Anselmsson (2006) showed that the prestige of shopping centres and customer satisfaction depends on the variety of available brands. Contradicting this statement, Juhl, Kristensen, and Ostergaard (2002) suggested that instead of quantity, quality of the available products decided customers’ perception about shopping centres.

Literatures of such scholars suggest different aspects that are responsible for customer attraction and satisfaction. All these scholars are true in their own sense and as far as shopping centres are concerned, all such suggestions matter a lot. Various aspects (such as image/prestige, quality, and quantity) suggested by these scholars are significant for any shopping centre and when clubbed together, they can prove to be a deciding factor for their success.

Convenience

Approach or proximity to shopping centres is also a significant governing factor for customers’ visits (Seock, 2009). He further claimed that customers prefer shopping centres because there are several shops having different products and brands; individual shops have limitations regarding variety and brands.

Other convenience factors that impress customers are shopping time, site, parking facility, etc. Stressing on the importance of location (site), Hernandez and Bennison (2000) suggested that shop keepers do not mind spending more for acquiring better locations. In addition to such aspects customers also consider the stress involved in shopping such as time consumption and tiredness (Schroder & Zaharia, 2008).

Some major shopping malls of Dubai

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall is the nucleus of Emaar group and is the biggest shopping centre in the world (The Dubai Mall, 2014). The mall has “12.1 million sq ft of retail and entertainment” (Emaar, 2014, p. 1). Construction of the mall started in 2004 and it started functioning in November 2008; the construction “is part of US $20 billion Downtown Burj Khalifa development” (The Dubai Mall, 2014, p. 1). It serves as a gateway to Burj Khalifa. The shopping centre has more than 1,200 outlets and it is the first instance for 165 of them to have started their outlets in the region.

Mall of the Emirates

Started in September 2005, Mall of Emirates is situated at the centre of ‘New Dubai’. It has 223,000 sq metres of exquisite shopping and relaxation area. The mall has 476 international brands out of which 60 brands have opened their stores in Dubai for the first time.

Burjuman Centre

Burjuman Centre is located in Bur Dubai with more than 2.8 million square feet of constructed area. It was developed by Al Ghurair group and was opened in 1992 (renovated recently). The premise houses a shopping mall, residential area, hotel, and offices. The total area devoted to retail business is 800,000 square feet. Burjuman Centre has been awarded twice for its excellent service.

Dubai Marina Mall

The mall gets its name from the area where it is located. The mall has constructed area of 390,000 square feet in which there are 140 outlets and was opened for shoppers in 2008. The mall boasts of excellent entertainment with varied interests such as super market, separate area for children, and cinema hall with six screens.

Methodology

This research engages perception of a delegated sample of the populace. The study was completed in two stages. The initial stage was exploratory in nature including scrutiny of secondary data and individual interface with chosen experts from the retail sector, specialists and shopping centre customers. It assisted in characterising the issue and producing an organised survey. Next stage was decisive (explanatory) and included gathering of information from respondents.

The literature review gave the preliminary rundown of aspects influencing shoppers’ experience. Such information was shared with a board involving analysts and experts from the retail sector. The board analysed all the variables with respect to their appropriateness for this study. The last instrument involved twenty two shopping centre aspects.

It was intended to measure respondent’s level of conformity or conflict with proclamations pertaining to importance of each aspect. Likert’s scale was utilised to document the replies. According to the scale, a score of ‘1’ demonstrates solid contradiction while a score of ‘5’ demonstrates solid conformity. In order to confirm the legitimacy and unwavering quality of questionnaire, a pre-test was conducted. The questionnaire additionally included questions about important demographic aspects of the participants.

During the explanatory phase, the questionnaire was distributed to the participants. In order for the factor analysis to be applied appropriately, it is required that the number of respondents should not be less than five times the total variables (aspects) (Hair, Blake, Babin, Anderson, & Tatham, 2006).

As mentioned above, twenty two shopping centre aspects were considered, so the number of respondents (participants) was not supposed to be less than 110. Considering this requirement, 200 respondents were included in the survey so that there was no chance of any shortfall.

For the purpose of defining the various aspects of the study, shoppers in shopping centres were considered to be the population, individual shoppers were the sampling element, and shopping centres were the sampling unit. Degree to which individuals are incorporated in specimen is characterised in relation to a criterion (ideally objective) that characterises components. In this study, degree was articulated as persons bringing at least one shopping bag from a shopping centre.

Data was gathered from four shopping centres: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Burjuman Centre, and Dubai Marina Mall. These shopping centres were chosen based on the number of visitors that they had. Also, these shopping centres are located in various locations of Dubai and have shoppers from all walks of life.

The study utilised the ‘non-probability quota sampling’ method, which is a multi-stage controlled judgmental specimen where the initial phase involves building up a quota of elements of populace and the following phases involve short-listing of specimen elements, depending on judgment (Malhotra, 2004).

The initial phases came up with the four shopping centres: The Dubai Mall, the Mall of Emirates, the Burjuman Centre, and the Dubai Marina Mall. The shopping centres were chosen while considering all the major locations of Dubai. During the second phase, fifty respondents were chosen from each of these four shopping centres, thereby bringing the total number of respondents to 200. The respondents were approached by following the mall intercept technique.

Customers at the Dubai Mall and the Mall of Emirates are mostly from the upper and affluent class. These shopping centres are also a centre of attraction for tourists. Both these malls have lots of entertainment that make them a niche above their competitors. The Burjuman Centre and the Dubai Marina Mall are mainly thronged by Emiratis and middle class people from the expatriate population. So overall, these four shopping centres represent a varied populace (tourists, locals, expatriates from upper and middle class).

Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) Algorithm

Selection of shopping malls involves various attributes that help shoppers in their decision making. The AHP is a multi-attributes decision making process that assists in deciding such attributes. The proposed AHP would assist policy makers to model a complex problem in a hierarchical structure that will depict the overall aim, attributes (objectives), and alternatives. Owing to its usefulness, AHP has been used largely in research projects.

Application of AHP to shopping centre selection and preference

A typical AHP consists of four stages:

  1. Construction of the hierarchy that describes the problem. The main goal is at the top with attributes at the lower levels. The main factor is just below the goal and its attributes are a level below. Various attributes of a particular factor can be sub-divided at the lower levels.
  2. Deriving the weights for the lowest level attributes. This is carried out by carrying out several pair-wise comparisons where each attribute on each level is compared to other attributes of that factor. While doing such comparison, the significance of the attributes to the factor is considered. Nonetheless, in order to calculate the total weights of the lowest level, matrix arithmetic is needed.
  3. The choices available with the decision-maker are scored with respect to the lowest level attributes or using the pair-wise comparison procedure.
  4. Adjusting the choices’ scores to reflect the weights given to attributes, and adding the adjusted scores to produce a final score for each optimum.

The hierarchy structure includes shopping centre selection factors such as ambience (AM), convenience (CO), infrastructure (IN), marketing (MA), and safety and security (SS).

In addition to the factors, their respective attributes are also there such as lighting (LT), air conditioning (AC), music (MC), hygiene (HG), odour (OD), interior (IN), ample utilities (AU), accessibility (AS), lifts and escalators (LE), layout (LO), size (SZ), parking (PK), open area (OA), atrium (AT), promotions being conducted (PC), front elevation (FE), tenant mix (TM), adherence to construction regulations (AR), security against terrorist activities (TA).

The four chosen shopping centres are Dubai Mall (DM), Mall of the Emirates (ME), Burjuman Centre (BC), and Dubai Marina Mall (MM). For the purpose of creating a shopping centre attributes and preferences decision hierarchy, we shall consider the five factors and the four shopping centres. Figure 1 depicts such hierarchy:

Shopping Centre selection attributes and preferences decision hierarchy
Figure 1: Shopping Centre selection attributes and preferences decision hierarchy

AHP steps

Define an unstructured problem and determine the overall goal. According to Simon (1960), the methodology of decision-making process encompasses identifying the problem, generating and evaluating alternatives, designing, and obtaining actionable intelligence. The overall goal of the central firm is in the first level of the hierarchy, shown in Figure 1.

  1. Build the pecking order from the top through the transitional levels (criteria on which subsequent levels depend on) to the lowest level that contains a list of alternatives.
  2. Construct a set of pair-wise assessment matrices for each of the lower levels. The pair-wise assessment is made such that the aspect in row i (i = 1, 2, 3, 4…n) is ranked comparative to all the aspects represented by n columns. The pair-wise comparisons are done in terms of which element dominates another (i.e. based on the relative importance of each elements). These judgments are expressed as integer values 1 to 9 in which aij = 1 means that i and j are equally important; aij = 3 signifies that i is moderately more important than j; aij = 5 suggests that i is strongly more important than j; aij = 7 indicates that i is very strongly more important than j; aij = 9 signifies that i is extremely more important than j.

Establishment of pair-wise comparison matrix A

The pair-wise comparisons are accomplished in terms of which element dominates or influences the order. The AHP is then used to quantify these opinions that can be represented in an n-by-n matrix as follows:

Establishment of pair-wise comparison matrix A
Establishment of pair-wise comparison matrix A… (1)

Eigenvalue and Eigenvector

Saaty (1980) recommended that the maximum eigenvalue, λmax, can be determined as:

Eigenvalue and Eigenvector
Eigenvalue and Eigenvector… (2)

Where λmax is the principal or maximum eigenvalue of positive real values in judgment matrix, Wj is the weight of jth factor, and Wi is the weight of ith factor.

If A represents consistency matrix, eigenvector X can be determined as:

(A – λmaxI)X = 0… (3)

Consistency test

Consistency index (CI) and consistency ration (CR) are used to check for consistency associated with the comparison matrix. A matrix is assumed to be consistent if and only if aij * ajk = ajkijk (for all i, j, and k). When a positive reciprocal matrix of order n is consistent, the principal eigenvalue possesses the value n.

Conversely, when it is inconsistent, the principal eigenvalue is greater than n and its difference will serve as a measure of CI. Therefore, to ascertain that the priority of elements is consistent, the maximum eigenvector or relative weights/λmax can be determined. Specifically, CI for each matrix order n is determined by using (3):

CI = (λmax – n)/n – 1… (4)

Where n is the matrix size or the number of items that are being compared in the matrix. Based on (3), the consistency ratio (CR) can be determined as:

CR = CI/RI = [(λmax – n)/n – 1]/RI… (5)

Where RI represents average consistency index over a number of random entries of same order reciprocal matrices shown. The CR is acceptable, if its value is less than or equal to 0.10. If it is greater than 0.10, the judgment matrix will be considered inconsistent. In order to resolve a conflicting judgment matrix it is advisable to check and correct the outcome.

Synthesised Matrix

To synthesise the pair-wise comparison matrix in (1), divide each element of the matrix by its column total. The priority vector is derived by dividing the sum of the rows associated with the synthesised matrix by the sum of the columns. Alternatively, the main concern of the elements can be acquired by knowing the principal eigenvector w of the matrix A (Saaty, 1980). For the priorities of the alternative ai, the priorities then are aggregated as follows:

P(ai) = ∑kwkPk(ai)…………………………………………………………………………..(6)

Where wk is the local priority of the element k and Pk(ai) is the priority of alternative ai with respect to element k of the upper level.

Sampling and Data Collection

A profile of each respondent was prepared using the demographic details provided by them. Following table depicts the profile chart of respondents:

Demographic faction Categories Number of respondents Percentage
Age group 14 to 20 years 11 5.5
21 to 34 years 120 60
35 to 49 years 56 28
50 to 65 years 13 6.5
Gender Male 135 67.5
Female 65 32.5
Marital status Unmarried 65 32.5
Married 105 52.5
Divorcee 20 10
Widow/widower 10 5
Residence status Local (citizen) 85 42.5
Expatriate 65 32.5
Tourist 50 25
Educational level High school 16 8
College 105 52.5
University 55 27.5
Professional 24 12
Occupation Government job 12 6
Private job 98 48
Self employed 28 14
Profession 20 10
Business 12 6
Student 23 11.5
Unemployed 7 3.5
Monthly income Less than AED 8000 50 25
AED 8001 to 16000 75 37.5
AED 16001 to 24000 44 22
More than AED 24000 31 15.5
Total of each faction 200 100

Table 1: Respondents’ profile

Empirical results

It is evident from table 1 that most of the shoppers were from the age group of 21 to 34 years (60%). Gender wise, males were witnessed to be thronging the shopping centres more often (67.5%). Further, most of the shoppers were married (52.5%). UAE citizens (42.5%) were found to be shopping more than the expatriates (32.5%) and tourists (25%).

Most of the shoppers (52.5%) were college students. Occupation wise, majority of the shoppers (48%) were employed in private shopping malls and finally, shoppers with a monthly income of AED 8001 to 16000 were found to be the most. This information can be used by management of shopping centres to tap the populace of the respective factions (those that have scored higher).

Factor number Factor Included variables (individual score) Average score Factor ranking
1 Ambience Lighting (3.21) 3.193 II
Air conditioning (3.22)
Music (3.18)
Hygiene (3.23)
Odour (3.13)
Interior (3.19)
2 Convenience Ample utilities (2.02) 1.895 IV
Accessibility (1.72)
Lifts and escalators (1.85)
Layout (1.99)
3 Infrastructure Size (2.23) 2.545 III
Parking (2.56)
Open area (2.38)
Atrium (3.01)
4 Marketing Promotions being conducted (3.95) 3.993 I
Front elevation (3.80
Tenant mix (4.23)
5 Safety and security Adherence to construction regulations (1.27) 1.325 V
Security against terrorist activities (1.38)

Table 2: Factor performance and other details

Factor # 1 (Ambience)

This factor included six variables: Lighting, air conditioning, music, hygiene, odour, and interior. All the mentioned variables are related to human pleasure and comfort; that’s the reason these have been labelled under ambience because their effective use can augment the surrounding ambience. With an average score of 3.193 this factor was placed at the second spot. Individual scores for the included variables ranged from 3.13 (odour) to 3.23 (hygiene).

The second spot of this factor indicates that shoppers consider it as an important one in deciding on the shopping centre to visit for shopping. Since there was not much of a difference among the scores of all the included variables, it may be concluded that all of them are equally important for shoppers.

Factor # 2 (Convenience)

Four variables (ample utilities, accessibility, lifts and escalators, and layout) were included in this factor. These variables assist in making customers’ experience memorable. Such variables or attributes relate to comfort and convenience, hence the name convenience was given to this particular factor.

Its average score was found to be 1.895 that brings it to the bottom and as such, it is not considered to be a significant factor in impressing shoppers. Out of the four variables, ample utilities had the maximum score (2.02), which is not a commendable score. It seems strange to notice that shoppers gave such low scores to utilities despite the fact that generally, people expect utilities to be clean and of high quality.

Answer to this might be found in the fact that Dubai is a world class city and people already live in comfort at places that have commendable utilities. As such, expectations of shoppers visiting shopping centres do not include better utilities because they already know how they are and have already utilised them. Accessibility variable scored the least (1.72), which means that people are not bothered to travel extra provided they get better service and shopping experience.

Factor # 3 (Infrastructure)

This factor also included four variables: size, parking, open area, and atrium. Such variables signify physical characteristics so they were put under this particular factor.

It had an average score of 2.545, which is not a good score to be impressed with. The score suggests an unbiased approach of customers towards the physical attributes. Among the four variables, size of shopping centre scored the least (2.23) and size of atrium had the highest score (3.01). This suggests that shoppers are not bothered about the size of the shopping centre; they prefer a spacious interior.

Factor # 4 (Marketing)

The variables included in this factor (promotions being conducted, front elevation, and tenant mix) are three different issues but their sole aim is to attract customers. Promotions are offered in shopping centres to lure customers, front elevation is made beautiful to impress customers and tenant mix is followed in order to have shops of people from all over the globe. While promotions come under marketing, front elevation is an aspect of architecture and tenant mix is a commercial activity.

It is understand that all three are from different aspects of business but they have a common goal; to attract more customers. It had the maximum score of 3.993namong all the five factors and the results suggest that customers value these variables. It is evident from the scores that customers prefer tenant mix (4.23) over other variables such as promotions (3.95) and front elevation (3.80). The available results depict that the score of tenant mix is maximum.

Factor # 5 (Safety and security)

The fifth factor had only two variables: Adherence to construction regulations and security against terrorist activities. It is clear that both these variables relate to the safety and security aspect of shoppers. This particular factor proved to be the least important one for the shoppers.

Whereas, the mean value of this factor was 1.325, adherence to construction regulations scored 1.27 and security against terrorist activities scored 1.38. The results suggest that shoppers in Dubai are not concerned about the safety and security aspects. This might be due to two reasons. Firstly, they are aware of the safety measures being mandatory for all constructions and secondly, there have been no terror attacks in Dubai.

Factor rankings

Importance of factors can be judged by the rankings that they get in the survey. Results depicted in table 2 indicate that ‘marketing’ factor is at number one position with an average score of 3.993. ‘Ambience’ is at the second spot with a score of 3.193 and ‘infrastructure’ holds the third position with a score of 2.545. ‘Convenience’ and ‘safety and security’ are at fourth and fifth positions with respective scores of 1.895 and 1.325.

Discussion

After-effects of this study approve the thought that shopping experience is result of an interaction among various variables. For giving predominant shopping background one ought to take a coordinated perspective of the situations and deal with multi-pronged systems. Such methods may be formulated while following the under-mentioned perceptions made in this study:

Shaping shopping experience

The research divulged that customers form their opinion on shopping centres based on five factors namely, ambience, convenience, infrastructure, marketing, and safety and security. Variables under each of these factors contribute towards creating a shopping experience for the customers. It implies that shopping centres can offer remarkable and varied shopping experience to their customers by precisely selecting variables within each factor. This determination would rely on client inclination and competitive environment.

Varied impact of different factors

Despite the fact that shopping experience involves five factors, each one of them contributes to a different level in attracting customers. Normal score for every factor is a decent pointer of importance connected by shoppers to them. In this study, the average score for various factors varied between 1.325 and 3.993. this implies that it is not necessary for shopping centre designers and supervisors to concentrate equally on all the factors.

Concentrations to be given to factors can be decided by the scores that they get. It is critical to understand this aspect because every decision towards improving shoppers experience would involve some infrastructure and cosy; also, the related resources are expected to be blocked. Employing resources involves certain costs and as such, it is paramount to recognise exercises/choices identified with the most applicable factor so that resources can be ideally assigned.

Comparative importance of factors

Current study revealed that marketing is the most preferred factor by shoppers. The second place was taken by ambience. Infrastructure was at third position, followed by the remaining two factors. It is not surprising to note that marketing occupied the first place because Dubai has been earnestly and effectively drawing in customers from everywhere throughout the globe. Ambience seemed to be another aspect that had encouraging reaction from customers. Remaining factors faired nominal with ratings of less than three.

Variables of different factors

A motivating aspect evident from this research is the inclusion of different variables under various factors. Like for example, it is obvious that variables like lighting, air conditioning, music, odour, and interior will come under ambience but including hygiene also under this factor is truly amazing. This means that management of shopping centres do not consider hygiene as a housekeeping aspect. On the contrary, they feel that better hygienic surroundings improve the overall ambience of the shopping centre.

Managerial implications

Consequences of this study ought to be seen as an amalgamation of general hypothesis of purchaser conduct seen through the mirror of Dubai’s residents. Likewise customers of shopping centres in different parts of the globe, shoppers of Dubai view shopping experience as an outcome of various aspects. Nonetheless, such common attributes come to an end here itself. Distinctive societies, financial systems and topographies may choose diverse means or answers for satisfying their requirements.

In this connection it is essential to investigate the structure of each factor (with regard to its included variables) along with importance given to such factors and/or variables. Since the target populace includes customers with handsome earning, those who have travelled a lot (locals, expatriates and tourists), have higher educational qualifications, and are well aware of the global developments, their anticipations from Dubai’s shopping centres are quite high. This situation arises because owing to their global connection and travel, they perceive global standards while comparing.

According to Singh & Sahay (2012), for Indian customers, surrounding atmosphere in a shopping centre helps to a great extent in attracting and retaining customers. On the other hand, for Dubai customers marketing factor is of prime importance. Indian customers are truly like those found in studies directed at numerous third world nations (Babin, Darden, & Griffin, 1994; Wakefield & Baker, 1998; Jones, 1999; Kim et al., 2005).

Accordingly, dissimilarity may be attributed to distinctive traits of customers (local versus guests/visitors). This notion is defended by a few studies where local customers and sightseers assessed same items/benefits in an unexpected way (Yuksel, 2004). Marketing factor is the first component characterising shopping experience for customers in Dubai and it runs in accordance with considering Dubai as a shopping area.

Administration of Dubai has been energetically advancing UAE as a business-cum-shopping extravaganza. Individuals who visit these shopping centres (particularly expatriates and visitors) are pulled in by this suggestion. A look at normal score for every variable shows that tenant mix is the most noteworthy variable under marketing.

Shopping centre customers in Dubai are energised by the presence of a worthy tenant-mix. It is important for shopping centre designers and chiefs to guarantee that their choice of brands is such that shoppers feel amped up for going to shopping centres.

Limitations

The outcomes of the study are expected to be affected by time. A longitudinal exploration with an arrangement of information sets gathered after a customary interim would insulate the effect of time. Size of the example is sufficient to defeat the measurable protests but is still little as contrasted with aggregate populace.

An alternate confinement of this study is that results are focused around the supposition that the specimen is a stone monument while distinctive segments within it may show diverse inclination. If the respondents were not divided into sub-sections (age-wise, gender wise, income wise, education wise, etc.), it would have further diminished number of perceptions under each sub-section. In any case it is conceivable to address this issue with a bigger specimen and/or implementing standard investigation.

Future Research

Considering earlier mix of shopping experience for a solitary market, it would be valuable to gather a specimen from locations around the globe. Such a study would help in highlighting contrasts between two business sectors and also point at conceivable sources/explanations behind such contrasts. For single-business studies, deeper understanding can be acquired by mulling over contrasts along demographic parameters of respondents like age, sex, salary, profession, and so on. Such a study would help specialists in formulating explicit policies.

Conclusion

Consequences of study uncover intriguing examples regarding synthesis of shopping experience. Results can be utilised by shopping centre engineers and shopping centre administrators to substantiate that they find themselves capable to ensure better shopping experience for their customers. It is all the more paramount for people of Dubai that the emirate draws in customers from across the globe.

It is expected that in times to come, several countries will have top-rated shopping centres. In that situation a percentage of the customers may fulfil their urge by going to recently built world-class shopping centres in their nations or they may incline toward some other shopping terminus. So Dubai shopping centres need to re-design themselves in terms of components of shopping background to keep them significant according to their target bunch.

It is evident that now-a-days, customers value experience more than the product or the service. Even surveys conducted show that customers are influenced by the experience of others as well as their own encounters. Shopping malls try hard to come up to the expectations of their customers and offer better experiences to them so that they are satisfied and promote their products or services among their acquaintances. Customers gather experience only after using a particular product or service.

Product and service are generally misunderstood as being similar in their nature because both are related to customers. But in fact, these two have their own distinguished features. Products are tangible and can be viewed, sensed, and smelled, whereas service is intangible and does not have these attributes. Products can be resold for profit but services don’t have this feature. Services are to be used by the buyer himself (they are non-transferable). Whereas, the ownership of products can be transferred at the owner’s will.

Due to the ever-expanding customer demands, new entrants are launching their products in the market. This has posed great danger for the established shopping malls. Shopping malls adopt various strategies to overcome such competition. But in their endeavours to sustain the competition, shopping malls ought to follow certain moral codes of conduct. This applies to both the new entrants and the established ones.

Organisations (in this context: shopping centres) have now understood that customers’ experiences play a vital role in their decisions and preferences. So, shopping malls involve their customers in important developments pertaining to products and/or services. By doing this, shopping malls are able to take advantage of their customers’ experiences and develop new products and/or services based on such experiences.

The five factors (ambience, convenience, infrastructure, marketing, and safety and security) that have been discussed in the study are of utmost significance in order to achieve utmost customer satisfaction. More important are the attributes within each factor. The study indicated that customers considered ‘tenant mix’ to be the most favoured attribute in order to have best experience. The least favoured attribute was, ‘abiding by construction regulations’.

As is understood, Dubai is a multi-cultured city where people from across the globe come each year. Since the visitors (and even those living there) are from different cultures, it is necessary for shopping centres to have tenants from different cultures so that every visitor can feel at home.

Construction regulations were the least favoured because everyone is aware of the fact that it is mandatory for all construction works to follow the regulations strictly. So there is no need to worry about it. Moreover, the visitors are not bothered about this aspect because it does not act as a hindrance in their shopping experience; it is up to the management to deal with such issues.

Dubai’s shopping centres have an added advantage in government’s efforts to promote tourism. Dubai government is bent upon luring international tourists. It advertises the extravagant life style of Dubai in such a manner that proposed tourists cannot resist. Once in Dubai, tourists make it a point to visit different shopping malls that are spread throughout the emirate. Shopping centre administrations ensure that such tourists have memorable experience. Visitors are provided with different kinds of entertainment also at various intervals.

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