Predictions

Connected mall of the future

Merging the digital and physical worlds

Connected Mall of the Future: Reimagining innovation & self-disruption by merging the digital and physical worlds

By: Jennifer Lee

Imagine this: You’re headed to the mall and you want to make your visit as efficient as possible. You’ve already selected which stores you want to go to ahead of time and have laid out the most efficient path to reduce walking, including having reserved a parking space at the nearest entrance. Your first stop is a shoe store, where the sales associate already has a selection of shoes put aside in your size based on styles you preselected using your own digital avatar. Check-out happens on your smartphone in 30 seconds, and then you’re off to an electronics store to find new headphones. You settle on a pair you like and once again use your phone, this time to scan its barcode and guarantee getting the lowest price. After spending the next hour at the food court, you decide to get some rest in a nap pod. Another hour until wake up time, then a concierge meets you at the car with your purchases so you don’t have to carry a thing.

Welcome to the connected mall of the future — a carefully curated shopping experience, driven by technology and analytics, and designed to enhance customer experience while boosting foot traffic, sales, as well as the overall value of real estate assets. It is, ultimately, the convergence of the digital and physical spheres to deliver on the OmniChannel experience in novel ways.

Driving change

For retailers and mall owners — who have seen declines in both foot traffic as well as new retail construction — it will mean seizing new opportunities to deliver an even more personalized and technology-driven experience to meet consumer expectations. Gone are the days when the path-to-purchase began and ended inside a physical store. Today’s consumer is savvy and equipped to take advantage of the internet’s ubiquity in order to access a wealth of buying options, information about products and, of course, the power of social networks. Retailers and property owners will drive traffic by tracking consumer shopping behaviours and patterns.

Detect and connect

To take advantage of these accelerating technologies, companies will need to implement the physical and digital infrastructure necessary to understand foot traffic and engagement, leveraging WiFi data collected passively as consumers move through shopping areas. This will enable retailers to gain analytics on patterns of behaviour, and help answer critical questions like these:

  • How many customers are coming to the mall?
  • What time of day are customers shopping?
  • How long is each customer staying in each mall zone?
  • Where do customers dwell and what is their shopping path?

Incorporating analytics about weather, labour and staffing, store layouts, CRM data, real-time location and the web will create powerful insights which can be acted upon immediately and automatically but also, as part of careful long-term planning.

Retailers and mall owners can also use technology to blend online and offline worlds through the use of mobile apps that engage directly with consumers. Apps can be used to present many benefits: planning, pre-selection of merchandise, social sharing, loyalty programs, promotions, parking, check-out, virtual reality, price comparisons and concierge services, for example. Providing context-aware curated experiences has clear benefits for the retailer, too, as increasing engagement is positively linked to conversion rate and basket size — let alone the increase in consumer data which can be merged with and enhance other sources.
Analytics shape strategy

A mountain of data about consumer behaviour has been collected. Now what? By integrating analytics with collected data, companies will be able to uncover hidden opportunities, identify pressing business issues and develop action plans that will drive their business strategies forward in the following areas:

  1. Markets, including trade area and competitive analyses, population and demographics.
  2. Customer behaviour, including technology-driven insights about OmniChannel path-to-purchase.
  3. Finance, including cash flow models, current vs. future asset valuations, tenant sales relative to foot traffic, capital investment feasibility, feasibility analyses of retail concepts and alternative or intensification of use models.

By applying analytics to these areas, retailers can develop asset strategies that are extremely dynamic, boosting current opportunities as well as emerging ones. Best of all, the digitization of the brick-and-mortar store will provide the ideal platform to take advantage of any marketing and customer service components of these strategies.

Fifty years ago, our grandmothers had a deeply personalized shopping experience. Clerks would address them by name, ask after their children while loading shopping bags in the car. Today’s consumers crave the same kind of personalized service and they no longer see a division between their brick-and-mortar and online shopping experiences. Retailers and mall owners would do well to heed this call: an invitation to provide a curated experience, allowing shoppers to interact physically and digitally with their stores, while boosting traffic, sales and asset valuations.

Jennifer Lee is a partner in the consumer analytics practice and the national retail and omnichannel leader at Deloitte. She helps retailers build e-commerce and mobile strategies to drive revenue growth and operational efficiencies.

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