Technology and innovation is impacting businesses in all sectors, but none more so than those operating in the retail industry. From data analytics and digital advertisements, to virtual reality and interactive apps, the possibilities are endless for stores and shopping malls looking to embrace new technologies. But what are the opinions of those individuals who actually specialise in the management of shopping malls? What technologies do they believe will benefit their business and customers the most?

A recent report by Retail Week spoke to 11 of the most influential shopping mall specialists in the UK. It explored their viewpoints and priorities around utilising innovative technology platforms and the power of big data to improve customer engagement. The results from this study provide an interesting insight into today’s bricks and mortar retail environments, with the common theme being the need to improve the overall visitor experience through the introduction of new technologies.

The report, called ‘Unleashing Shopping Centre Profitability’, revealed that the most influential piece of technology to best serve visitors is free WiFi, with 90% rating this as their top requirement. This was followed by personalised communications and digital in-mall messaging. When taking these findings into consideration, it seems WiFi analytics ticks all of the boxes and could be the missing piece to the puzzle. WiFi is now an expectation for the modern-day shopper, so why shouldn’t shopping malls gain something back from delivering such an in-demand service and acquire customer insights from their WiFi network.

88% of respondents claim that free WiFi is their top tech priority to better serve visitors, with many believing this is the key method of improving customer engagement and communications. Through the effective utilisation of WiFi analytics, shopping malls can deliver high speed connectivity whilst simultaneously gathering valuable insights in real-time. When a shopper accesses the WiFi a wealth of demographic data is captured, including their email address, name, age, gender, interests, location and even frequency of visits.

This information is highly valuable to shopping malls as it helps them to build an accurate picture of who their customers are and how they behave within their establishment. Demographic data can be utilised to develop segmented and thought-provoking email and SMS campaigns that inform customers about new in-store sales, promote discounts at food outlets and reward loyal visitors for their custom. From distributing a meal voucher when a customer is located near the food court, to asking customers about their shopping experience 24 hours after their visit, having access to such rich data will dramatically transform communications and customer engagement.  

Shopping mall specialists can also use WiFi analytics and location data to uncover the busiest areas in their malls and place resources in these zones to ensure a premium service is delivered. An added benefit for shopping malls is the fact that they house a number of brands under one roof, meaning they have the opportunity to earn additional revenue by selling advertising space on their WiFi landing page to brands that are based in the mall.

WiFi can also be used to inform and promote other forms of digital technologies available to visitors. Data collected via WiFi about core age groups, interests and even location can be used to determine what content to feature on digital advertisements as well as the WiFi splash page. During the network access journey customers could also be prompted to download apps, which provide direct access to store opening times, maps and contact details. Having additional methods of promoting apps will help relieve concerns highlighted in the report around the lack of people willing to download mobile applications.

There’s no denying that technology is going to play a pivotal role in the way shopping malls and those operating in the retail sector interact with consumers. However, a number of respondents from the report still believe in the power of personal interactions. ‘British Land research shows that events can increase dwell time by 41%’, justifying that face-to-face engagement encourages prolonged visits, with the most popular use of events space being used for pop up units. But to achieve optimum success, this event will receive more visitors if it is effectively promoted through various technology platforms and digital communications.

Ultimately, Shopping malls need as much data as possible to help drive insight, improve communications, grow visitor levels, increase dwell time and refine the retail mix in their malls. A WiFi and analytics platform is just one of many ways to capture consistent, qualified data, but an important factor is that all businesses, regardless of sector, need to be open to exploring new technologies to keep customers coming through their doors.