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Technology: Shaping the future of malls


The dynamics of the Indian retail industry are rapidly changing post liberalisation. The industry, which was once dominated by unorganised mom-and-pop stores, is transforming into an organised body and subsequently, India is witnessing a mall boom. The rise in Internet subscribers and active social media users, changing lifestyles and increasing disposable incomes have transformed the rural and urban consumer bases alike. This dynamic resulted in the increasing prominence of malls across the country.

The world has also seen a transition in the way consumers shop at the mall – with retailers giving suggestion to shoppers on what to buy, dictating the success of the store based on their personal needs. To satisfy these burgeoning customer needs, not only retailers but malls are also embracing technology to reach the modern shoppers.

Over time, technology has transcended from an aspiration to an expectation and has wedged itself securely between consumer and experience to create an everyday interface.

While it has definitely made life easier for consumers, mall developers in India have spent the better part of the last few years on their heels, finding tech solutions.

In order to be more competent, malls are putting their best foot forward to embrace emerging technologies. With increasing cut-throat competition, it has become the need of the hour for mall developers to innovate and implement cutting-edge technologies in a bid to lure the customer who was shifting to e-commerce due to convenience and vast choice.

Malls today are using technology in various ways – from putting up smart displays to digital directories, interlinking the entire mall with an app, booking parking spots, offering discounts, mapping customer behaviour, keeping a track record of how consumers shop and what they buy and a lot more.

Malls in Tier I and metro cities have already started implementing technologies in a big way, however, small malls in Tier II and III cities and beyond are still analysing the pros and cons of experimenting with new technologies.

Focus on Retaining Customers

How to capture a customer’s data, his demographic and psychographic profile, his shopping behaviour, connect with him regularly based on the data captured and engage him/ her to bring to the mall, are questions that the malls are trying to get answered scientifically, analytically and effectively through technology.

Additionally, malls are focusing on another set of factors like nearly zero turnaround time, smooth information flow across levels with point precision, quality and well maintained asset base with basics in place, a good mix of brands and offerings etc.

Technology has proved a boon in monitoring store performance, category performance and the centre performance at the same time. More importantly, such information is readily available to the mall officers to enable a forward looking plan to enhance consumption and brand performance.

Technological Advancements

MAPS Technology is dramatically changing the way mall managers handle marketing display campaigns. It empowers mall management teams to carry out large scale maintenance work, reach more marketing display spaces and update them more frequently at a reduced cost.

Intelligent Dashboards & Reports point to the correlation between footfalls and customer spends on any day. Heat maps indicating which areas of the mall are performing and which need more attention make focusing on key areas easier.

Yield Management Analysis is another area that could greatly add to the profitability of malls where a closer study of the yields, vacancies and the potential can be culled out using such analytics.

Consumer-centric tech platforms like AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) enable personalised and engaging experiences.

These technologies help in building malls’ connection with consumers via product visualisation, behaviour analyses, communication with customers, creating real-time merchandising, marketing, advertising, and promotional opportunities.
Increasing demand for experiential retail coupled with the stores’ ability to be different is, in a way, fuelling demand for new technologies. It is expected that the malls will soon be introducing holograms – static visuals to interactive ones – in place of the traditional promotional standees and flex boards.

Already, malls have at their disposal varied digital communication tools, from bots like Kik Bot Shop and WeChat to voice-activated AI agents like Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa. Mall operators and tenants are also leveraging these personalized digital ecologies when shoppers are either in or away from their centres.

Also, with shoppers’ mobile devices connecting to the mall’s WiFi-network, a new channel of communication has opened between the mall operator, retailer and customers. This avenue gives shoppers relevant information right from where to park the car to various offers and enticements like discounts. This makes the shopping experience more personal, convenient and enjoyable.

Innovations in Malls

To enhance customer experience, LuLu Mall has introduced LiFi,which is similar to WiFi but takes the signals through light.

Explaining it further, Shibu Philips, Business Head, LuLu Mall says, “Lights are very integral part of every shopping mall. These lights pass signals to customer’s mobile phones which further informs the retailers about their exact presence in the shopping mall and in return they prompt customers with the luring offers.”

“LuLu Mall is also using technologies like geo-fencing, beacon technology and ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition). We identify our customer the moment he/ she enters the mall as this technology helps in recognising number plates of cars and keeping track of customers. Now, we have started interacting with them and ensuring that they get all timely information about our mall,” he adds.

Apart from this, the brand is also using technology to pre-cast the buildings of their new mall. This will help hasten the process of constructing the mall. By using this technology, the brand expects the mall to be ready in 24 months straight.

DLF Shopping Malls have been leading the retail and entertainment space by constantly innovating and introducing new technologies to stay ahead of the curve and to ensure superior experience to customers. The brand has recently introduced India’s first ever retail Phygital application ‘Lukout’.

“The Lukout app is a one stop solution that offers highly personalized proximity based engaging content in terms of latest looks, latest trends, real time location based offers while providing conveniences like one touch parking payment, one touch valet, one touch concierge along with having its own social network for millions of consumers,” says Harshavardhan Chauhan, Head, Central Marketing and Phygital, DLF Shopping Malls.

“For retailers, the app provides a disruptive platform to enable channel-based consumer targeting and further allows brands to host their virtual stores fronts on Lukout to enhance discoverability and device proximity campaigns to target consumers via big-data powered analytics dashboards,” he adds.

Lukout leverages cutting edge technology across IOT, big-data, real time analytics and proximity personalized marketing for seamlessly connecting the physical and digital ecosystems.

“We also installed Digital Directories to offer quick and easy guides to help shoppers find what they’re looking for at the multi-level malls. On the other hand, DLF Promenade followed suit by introducing WiFi’s and wallets for payments within the mall,” explains Chauhan.

“DLF Saket recently installed sensors in the parking lots to provide drivers with a visual indicator to detect how many parking spots were available on each level. Taking Augmented Reality on a completely significant level was the integration of an engaging Virtual Assistant platform – Huber. Anyone and everyone visiting Cyber Hub can explore and celebrate life the way they want with the help of this virtual concierge,” he further states. Recently, DLF Shopping Malls has bagged IMAGES Excellence Award – Phygital Transformation at IMAGES Shopping Centre Awards 2019.

Just like DLF Shopping Malls, Express Avenue Mall in Chennai has also installed Digital Directories at each floor mapping the entire mall.

“Apart from this, we have introduced self-service kiosks at the foodcourt to eliminate the tasking job of standing in queues while ordering food. Soon, we will be introducing a mall app and a loyalty program too,” states Munish Khanna, Chief Revenue Officer, Express Avenue Mall.

Malls in Tier II and III cities are also embracing technologies just like their counterparts in Tier I and metro cities. The best example is MGB Felicity Mall, Nellore which using technology starts sending offers to customers as soon as they enter the mall.
Machani Gangadhar Gopala Krishna, Joint Managing Director, MGB Felicity Mall, Nellore reveals, “We are planning to launch a mall app and soon be rolling all the promotional offers through the app.”

The mall has a dedicated software which manages and generates all reports (DMR). This exclusive software is also used to monitor the energy consumption in real time and analyses the losses to control.

“We also have a software to better facilitate parking in the mall. Through this, counting, categorization and stay-time of the vehicles can be tracked in real time,” Gopala Krishna states.
The mall management is in favour of Omnichannelisation of malls. “Since most of the tenant operating is operating on the revenue share basis, maximum amount of business, service and profit can be made in this case,” he concludes.