Shaping visitor experiences to maximize money spent. Driving in-store sales through smartphone notifications. Justifying premium mall rents with hard traffic data and lowering operating costs. These are just a few benefits of making shopping malls smart.
Retailers started beaming promotions straight to shopper smart phones some time ago, but until recently that has been limited to the area within and immediately surrounding a single store.
With new technologies coming of age, malls have been able to enter the fray with affordable mall-wide data networks that retailers can subscribe to for promotions pushed to smart phones through a permission-based mall app.
Malls that offer such apps have seen rapid consumer adoption, because shoppers can be alerted to in-store discounts, coupons and flash offers that they would otherwise miss. Apps can also provide interactive mall maps and even suggest best routes for any combination of stops.
The Qwartz shopping mall in Villeneuve-la-Garenne north of Paris, for example, gives shoppers smart phone access to digital product information, price comparisons and a search engine for all products sold in the mall.
The Qwartz app also provides personalized loyalty programs and wayfinding.
Consider this scenario:
As Julie walks through the mall’s front entrance, the mall app on her smart phone launches automatically. The shopping list she has created shows the retailers that can fulfil it and any offers they have on. She chooses the shoe retailer that’s having a 25% off sale and her favorite summer wear shop. As she is following the highly efficient route that the app has provided for her, she gets a notification from her favorite food court restaurant: ‘Pad Thai combo 50% off until 12:30’ and she stops for lunch. At the washroom afterwards, she is pleased to find that the toilets are impeccable, the counters freshly wiped and the towel dispensers are well provisioned. Another alert comes in and she makes a quick detour to pick up children’s winter mitts at a 55% off flash sale. At the end of her trip, Julie is already looking forward to her next mall visit.
Promotion, shopping and wayfinding are just part of the story when it comes to smart malls. Data dissemination is matched with comprehensive data collection, which means that shopper movements can be tracked, revealing recurring patterns that mall teams can take advantage of. Sensors can locate equipment, let maintenance staff know when supplies require replenishing, or help direct shipments to retailers faster and more accurately.
“Imagine a dashboard that gives you the big picture,” suggests Mirva Saarijärvi of Wirepas, a mesh technology network provider. “It can show you at a glance where your assets are, the ambient temperature, humidity and lighting values in every part of the mall. With sensor-driven mesh technology, real time knowledge an affordable reality.”
The benefits that smart malls can confer are impressive: more loyal shoppers, lower operational costs, and higher mall revenues. The cost of all this? The average smart mall retrofit pays for itself in months rather than years.
“The smart mall isn’t a new concept,” explains Saarijärvi, “what’s new is the ease and affordability of actually making it happen. The technology has finally matured.”
The technology in question is wide area mesh, or simply ‘mesh’. It’s a wireless network architecture that smart malls can leverage to transfer data of all kinds. Messages can be broadcasted to devices, and data gathered from tags and sensors of every description is automatically collected.
The problem is that smart mall implementations are expensive. Solving the affordability puzzle has a lot to do with a huge advance in signal transmission technology. Wirepas’ proprietary beacon signal uses about 400 times less energy than competing mesh technologies, enabling battery-powered beacons to function for years without maintenance.
But the special network protocol rides on the 2,4GHz hardware layer as does Bluetooth, which means that any Bluetooth-enabled smart phone or tablet can receive messages from the mesh network. Then back end system powering the phone app can automatically react to any choices made on shopper devices.
“A hardwired beacon needs no maintenance over the lifetime of the mall,” observes Dennis van Doorn, of Fujitsu Components Europe. “In a mall retrofit situation, hardwiring is possible wherever there are electric lights. But with technologies like Wirepas, battery-operated sensors are the logical choice. Energy consumption is so low that two regular AA batteries in a beacon will last five years or more. That drives down the cost of installation as well as maintenance.”
|The beauty of a decentralized mesh network is its tractability. It forms the base infrastructure for any number of functions. “If your main objective is managed beacons,” suggests van Doorn, “you can retrofit your mall with beacons, then add on sensor-based lighting adjustment or asset management where and when it makes sense.
Saarijärvi and van Doorn have identified five areas where smart malls can add to the bottom line, delight patrons, and encourage more bricks and mortar sales in an increasingly online world:
Mesh technology provides a base technology that offers a plethora of use cases. It enables advertising, messaging and wayfinding. It provides the network required for the anchor and asset tags needed to track assets, and for environmental, lighting and acceleration sensors that help moderate the environment.
There are many other possible applications, like emergency preparedness alert systems, security alert systems and network-connected cameras. The applications that generate the most revenue right away involve shopper interaction, but sensors can help stimulate spending in many small ways. If you can make the mall a more comfortable, safe and exciting place to be, shoppers will stay longer and buy more.
Is mesh the advantage that malls have been looking for to boost sales and attract top retailers? It’s too early to tell, but even something as basic as heat map traffic data and robust promotional messaging could go a long way towards keeping A-list retailers and delivering handsome rents.
Wirepas is a leading mesh technology provider based in Finland. Fujitsu provides required hardware, including sensors for all different use cases, as well as complete retrofit or new build solutions.
Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company offering a full range of technology products, solutions and services. Fujitsu Components Europe B.V. is responsible for managing the sales, marketing and distribution of its relays, touch panels, thermal printer mechanisms, wireless modules, beacons and connectors in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Fujitsu Components Europe is headquartered in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands.
Shaping tomorrow with you
Wirepas Mesh enables wireless IoT networking at massive scale. It is a de-centralized IoT network protocol that can be used to connect, locate and identify lights, sensors, beacons, assets, machines and meters in cities, buildings, industry, logistics and energy – with unprecedented scale, density, flexibility and reliability. It can be used on any radio hardware and on any frequency band. Wirepas has its headquarters in Tampere, Finland and offices in Australia, France, Germany, India, South Korea, the UK and the United States.
Things connected – Naturally
Essiena UyttenbroekDiamantlaan 25
Phone: +31 (0)23 556 0936
Company:Fujitsu Components Europe B.V.
Manager, Marketing and Communication
Date: 20 February, 2019
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