Revamped Funan Mall leverages tech to refine shopper experience

By
/ EdgeProp Singapore
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July 5, 2019 3:20 PM SGT
After closing for three years for a $560 million redevelopment, the new Funan mall reopened almost fully leased, achieving 95% of retail leasing and 98% of office leasing (Credit: CapitaLand)
By 9am on June 28, a snaking queue had formed around the main entrance of Funan mall. While the doors officially opened to the public only at 11.30am, eager shoppers were peeking through the mall’s glass door, hoping to catch a glimpse of what awaits. Their anticipation was well-warranted.
After closing for three years for a $560 million redevelopment, the mall has reopened as a “social retail space for discovery, learning and shopping”, said Chris Chong, managing director of retail at CapitaLand Singapore, in a press release on June 28.
The eager crowd rushing into Funan as the doors opened at 11.30am on June 28 (Credit: CapitaLand)
Occupying a site of 124,500 sq ft, the new Funan comprises 507,000 sq ft of retail space, 260,000 sq ft of office space, and a co-living component. Ahead of its opening, Funan’s office space was already almost fully leased at 98%. It has also achieved 95% of retail leasing, bringing its total number of brands to more than 190. Over 60% of its brands originate from Singapore.
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Focus on experience

The mall features brands that are new to Singapore, such as Taobao, Dyson and folding bike maker Brompton Junction. Beyond shopping, most shoppers were waiting to experience CapitaLand’s take on meshing technology with retail. “We do not want to showcase technology for the sake of it. I think the best technologies are the ones that really blend seamlessly [with the needs of shoppers],” says Chong.
At basement two, CapitaLand is rolling out a “click-and-collect” function that will be ready by the end of the year. Shoppers have the option of leaving their purchased goods there. A robotised arm then collects and stores them in a glass hub round-the-clock. This service is strategically placed next to a drive-through, making it easy for customers to collect their purchases right before leaving the mall.
At basement two, CapitaLand is rolling out a “click-and-collect” function that will be ready by the end of the year
There are also smart carpark lots that are available for advanced booking. Among 400 carpark lots, 36 come with this function, allowing drivers to book them one day in advance. According to Chong, this function is especially helpful during peak hours or when shoppers have a movie to catch. Golden Village Multiplex has opened a 431-seat, seven-theatre complex at the mall.
Funan is the first mall in Singapore to boast a farm-to-table concept where diners can eat the produce grown from the urban farm on level 7. The farm is open to the public, and visitors can learn how some 50 types of fruits and vegetables are produced and harvested. The farm operator, Edible Garden City, works closely with chefs in the mall to cater to the needs of their menus. Noka, a 75-seater Japanese restaurant by wellness group Spa Esprit’s Cynthia Chua, is one of the restaurants using ingredients from the urban farm.
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Funan is the first among malls in Singapore to boast a farm-to-table concept where diners can eat the produce grown from the urban farm on level 7 (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
Activity-based retailers have also been introduced. Climb Central runs a climbing facility in the mall with its tallest wall at 15m, while The Ark Futsal operates Singapore’s first unmanned futsal facility.
Climb Central runs a climbing facility in the mall with its tallest wall at 15m (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
There will also be a cycling track through level 1 of the mall, in line with Singapore’s National Cycling Plan to encourage cycling as a mode of transport. The track will be open to cyclists from 7am to 10am daily, before the mall opens, with a speed limit of 10km/h. Outside those hours, cyclists have to dismount and push their bikes within the mall. CapitaLand has taken a step further, providing a bicycle hub that houses amenities such as shower cabins, lockers, a bicycle repair and pump station.
The Ark Futsal operates Singapore’s first unmanned futsal facility (Credit: Bong Xin Ying/ EdgeProp Singapore)
Bridging offline and online
This focus on shopper experience comes at a time of rampant e-commerce growth. According to data platform Statista, Singapore’s e-commerce market revenue is projected to amount to US$4.99 billion ($6.77 billion) by end-2019. This is forecast to reach a market volume of US$8.64 billion by 2023, at an annual growth rate of 14.7%.
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Chong sees Funan’s focus on a curated shopping experience as a means to future-proof itself. “[Shopping] is not just about [a] transactional process anymore,” he says. “Having social interactions is really part and parcel of the whole retail process.”
A cycling track runs through level 1 of Funan, which is open to cyclists from 7am to 10am daily before the mall opens
However, he does not buy into the narrative of e-commerce ringing the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores, but instead sees them as complementary. “People can shop and browse online, but we do find that a large majority, after browsing online, will still come down to the physical store and make the actual purchase,” Chong says. “This cross-selling is something that we should not neglect, because once [shoppers] are down in the stores, they end up getting a lot more things.”
The mall features new-to-Singapore brands such as Taobao, Dyson and folding bike maker Brompton Junction (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
To narrow the gap between offline and online shopping, Funan is providing the option of shorter and more flexible leases to small-time brands. These brands may have started out being an online store before garnering enough traction to open a physical store, or they may want a retail space to test the market. Typically, leases at CapitaLand malls span three years and smaller brands may not be able to maintain the lease.
Acknowledging this, Funan has created “retail pods”. Twenty of these spaces are available in the centre of the mall, and they form part of the “Tree of Life”, the design centrepiece of Funan. This cantilevered structure, made of 250 tonnes of composite steel, houses spaces that are meant to attract smaller brands to “encourage experimentation”, CapitaLand says. “We don’t constrain [tenants] in terms of what kind of product mix [they] can bring in,” points out Chong. “Anybody can just book a place, if you have something to sell or something to showcase.”
Small-time brands have the option of shorter and more flexible leases at Funan (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
In the 1990s, Funan was known as the go-to place for a tech fix. Today, decked in perforated aluminium panels and embracing tech to create a unique shopping experience, it could very well be the answer to the future of retail.