Around the world, shopping malls are evolving from places where people go to buy clothes and groceries, into spaces where people can come together to socialize and enjoy new experiences. Shopping centers have expanded and changed their layout to accommodate new activities, such as special events, concerts, gaming, interactive exhibits and so much more.
Phygital, a contraction of “physical” and “digital”, refers to all marketing strategies or retail experience that apply the methods of digital, dematerialized to a physical store. Phygital aims to combine the best aspects of digital and physical commerce to create the ideal integrated experience for the consumer and new opportunities for retailers and marketers.
Innovation is constantly expanding; new technologies are more present in our daily lives. Retailers must take this technological shift into account and adapt to offer new experiences in line with modern times. The phygital combines the power of digital and the visibility of physical. Touch screens for customers, tablets for sales staff, digital is already present in shopping centers. However, it can be further developed to create new experiences.
These ever-changing landscapes require better tools to help visitors get the most out of their visits. From touch screen platforms to augmented reality, there are many touchpoints which benefit both visitors and retailers. If you’re looking for new ways to enhance your visitor experience, here are the must-have features your mall needs to become a smart one.
Giving visitors simple and quick access to information is the number one priority to having a successful smart mall. First and foremost, you should provide visitors with smart access to maps and information on every device and system. Your systems need to work with what your visitors have to hand, and not the opposite way around.
For example, by providing access to interactive maps through all devices, you’ll be able to give your customers the best shopping experience possible. They’ll be able to locate their favorite stores, see what time they open, find the nearest restrooms, have access to parking assistance and more with just a few clicks. The navigation system can also provide shoppers with mobility issues with alternative routes and other useful information.
Smart Mobile App
The next option is to offer a custom app with all the relevant information for shoppers. This goes beyond helping them to get around. You can show them upcoming and future events, special offers, and keep them up to date on everything that’s going on with their favorite stores. You can also provide your customers with opening hours, the possibility to reserve a table in any restaurant, or even book an appointment in a beauty salon. A smart mobile app brings value to retailers as well. They can not only add value to their existing customer base, but they can use the app to attract new ones. They can also coordinate activities such as special sales or promotions, all without having to invest in a new way to reach mall visitors.
Digital Kiosk on site
Touch screen maps and guides have become commonplace in many shopping centers over the last five to ten years, but you might be surprised at how much the technology has evolved since then. Shopping malls and retailers are replacing the traditional map kiosk with interactive kiosk technology and improving the customer experience in the process. By installing touch screen platforms visitors will have the possibility to find any store with just a few clicks, learn about opening stores, access an interactive gamified experience (to collect data) and reward with vouchers or coupons, and also to see widgets like weather, traffic or local news. For the digital marketing manager or the landlord of the shopping center, it is another way to monetize assets and promote their tenants with offers, deals, sponsorships, and adverts.
The smart kiosk is a good place to promote the browser-based shopping center map. Visitors can access the map through QR code scanning, without the need to install a mobile app. For some people, this is an advantage because they do not want to download the official application to avoid being tracked.
Using location-based technologies, Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi, shopping centers can easily locate customers and send them personalized notifications in their app based on their geographical location, making the shopping experience unique. For instance, the shopping center app connected with a beacon could detect a consumer stopping at a coffee shop and send out a few minutes later a new coffee product the shop has launched that might interest them.
Proximity technology benefits retailers and service providers as well. In addition to sending out messages, proximity technology can retrieve information about the mall shoppers and their shopping habits, such as their preference for specific stores, the duration of their stay in the mall, the time of their visit, or their interest in specific events. This allows shopping mall owners to combine data such as customer preferences with geographic information, which gives owners the opportunity to send relevant messages in real time to their customers. The buyer’s experience becomes highly personalized.
E-commerce – when online meets offline
For shopping malls looking to reduce loss of customers to online options, combining online and offline commerce is a logical next step. One way is to allow customers to try out and buy in store and have their purchases delivered to their doorstep, letting them continue shopping without having to fuss around with heavy groceries or big shopping bags. Not only will this benefit customers, but also retailers as they can save on storage space and optimize their in-store layout. This can also eliminate the need to carry a large stock at each location.
As people are more and more in a hurry, click and collect is an interesting option: shoppers can order online and came to the store to pick up their order. This is yet another opportunity for the store to try and convince their customer to purchase other products on the spot.
Book Online and try in store: if online catalogs are exhaustive, they still don’t allow to test or try the products in real time. For that, more and more retailers propose to be able to reserve the piece online to be able to come and try it in store.
Interactive Data Visualization
In shopping centers, data is golden. However, making heads or tails of it is often the challenge. Shopping centers are addressing this issue by implementing a visual system of representing data in charts and visual graphs overlaid on indoor maps. This allows them to predict performance results and identify areas to monitor much faster than with ordinary static reports.
Augmented and virtual reality
Technology like Augmented Reality can be used to improve the consumer’s in-store experience, to promote a product or to create brand awareness inside a shopping mall.
Virtual reality also is finding a place within the shopping experience by allowing display providers to move away from traditional designs. Shopping centers and retailers alike will be able to evolve the way they create their displays, stretching the traditional cost and time constraints by using virtual and augmented reality to push their offering in a new direction. Indeed, it presents a perfect opportunity to delve into something ultra-contemporary and creatively challenging.
The age of AI
As we look to the near future, malls will likely use AI, machine learning, and big data to reduce their operational costs, drive consumer engagement, explore new revenue streams, and enable tenants to increase their productivity rates. Here are just a few examples of the ways retailers and shopping centers could use these tools within their spaces.
Chatbot: providing on-site customer service, such as assistance in store with smart shelf tags.
Price adjustments: AI applications for retail stores could help companies set prices for their products, visualizing the likely outcomes of multiple pricing strategies. To be able to execute this, the systems collect information about other products, promotional activities, sales figures and other data. This allows business owners to present the best offers, attract new customers and boost sales.
Visual search: Find similar products based on colors or shape, plus suggestions of what would coordinate well with it.
Virtual fitting kiosk: Like the solution made by Me-Ality, these kiosks can scan your body in seconds and tell you which size is going to provide the best fit. The system also suggests the accessories or piece that goes well with the clothing you have previously chosen.
Mood detection: With a facial recognition AI solution it is possible to detect the mood of your customers. For example, Walmart has put cameras at each checkout lane in-store and if a customer is in a negative mood, then a dedicated shop representative will talk to him.
As the shopping experience becomes smarter, shopping center owners and retailers alike are finding that the improvements to both customer experience and customer service are helping to encourage customers to return to the traditional, offline shopping space. As we look to the future, it is clear that solutions which provide both online and offline connectivity, personalization, and new interactions will be key to keeping shopping centers as a top destination for shoppers.