A growing trend in online shopping is forcing mall operators in Costa Rica to rethink their business models and renew their strategies for attracting customers.

Paseo de la Flores mall in Heredia

While Internet shopping trends in Costa Rica and Central American countries are still a long way behind more developed markets such as the United States and Canada, businesses are already starting to feel the effects of increased consumer interest in online shopping.

Large retailers already have online sales, selling the same products as in the brick and mortar locations, as a way of complementing their sales and facing competition from the likes of Amazon.

Malls such as The way malls such as City Mall (Alajuela), Paseo de las Flores (Heredia), Mall San Pedro and Multiplaza Escazú and Curridabat focus on having their tenants (retail stores) deal with the digital buying trend.

For example, these points of sale design shopping experiences, entertainment, fairs, concerts, launches and other activities in their facilities with greater digital interaction.

Nacion.com reports that “…In the view of Doug Stephens, retail sales specialist and founder of Retail Prophet, in Costa Rica, businesses should skip the mistakes made by all of the stores in the United States; get ahead 20 years in the process and start seeing these stores not as an expense, but as a great opportunity. This can be achieved if they give customers experiences to connect with spaces that translate into sensations and keep their stores in harmony with online sales.”

Online sales in Costa Rica are on the rise. Correos de Costa Rica (the Post Office) reinforced four years ago their parcel service to include receiving of parcels from abroad purchased online.

Over the last several years, several services once catering mainly to North Americans living in Costa Rica to get their (snail) mail and packages from abroad, now focus on online shopping targeted to both foreigners and nationals alike.

Some have converted themselves  tto virtual stores where customers can “buy just about everything”, focusing on a hassle free online shopping and getting it to Costa Rica. Services include a U.S. address (typically Miami) as the delivery address, and receive the package at home (in Costa Rica) with duties, taxes and ‘logistics costs’ calculated and included in the final price.

Elisa Rojas, marketing and sales manager of Grupo Roble (owner of Multiplaza Escazu and Multiplaza Curridabat), told La Nacion, “physical stores offer closeness and direct contact between the customer, product and brand” and the digital channel complementing the relationship.

“…Technology plays an important role with the current consumer and can strengthen that positioning between brand and consumer. Many of our stores are already preparing to give their customers the options,” concluded Rojas.