The “Connected Mall:” Interactive Displays for Malls of the Future

Simon Property Group and eBay Inc. are really starting to impress in the retail technology world and are really aiming to combine both the brick and mortar and digital shopping experiences.  Ebay has already “partnered with Kate Spade on interactive windows and one-hour deliveries; Westfield Corp. on digital storefronts for Sony, Rebecca Minkoff and Tom’s; and Nordstrom on fitting-room technology,” but now they are truly upping their shopping mall game.

Connected Mall is a new interactive directory that has been installed in the Stanford Shopping Center of Palo Alto. The Connected Mall is a high def six-foot all-weather LCD touch screen that features 3-D maps and coupons, all for the purpose of making the every day shopper’s time in the mall not only easier, but more efficient. The maps of the mall are displayed in 3-D, which he says gives “a richer and more robust user experience. The 3-D contours of individual stores make it easier to see your path and understand your directions. You can also rotate the map and move it up and down, so it’s positioned from where you are.” They have even made it wheelchair user friendly by making the map be able to angle down for whatever height is needed.

Don’t think the experience stops there, shoppers can also view the information on their phones after they have entered their mobile phone number. “The prompt appears when the user is on the screen that maps out directions, and the information is received via a text message, with a link that opens to the image of the target route. What’s seen on the big screen appears in a smaller version on the mobile phone.”  Simon’s chief marketing officer, Mikael Thygeson says, “what we have seen [with the Connected Mall] is that, when one person is using the kiosk, it attracts people who gather behind them to watch because they’re intrigued,” said Thygesen. “People realize [the kiosks] are double-sided, and they pop around to the other side…to try it out. The units went live just before Thanksgiving. We’ve already had 40,000 unique interactions, and 17,000 routes have been mapped.”

Healey Cypher, head of retail innovation at eBay, described the Connected Mall as being “waterproof, scratch-proof, bulletproof, graffiti-resistant and self-cooling.” The key to any new technology is that “it can’t feel like a gimmick,” he said. “It has to be a utility, and it should be magical — meaning it doesn’t break or go out or crash.” Cypher called traditional directories in malls “an awful, confusing user experience, with too much friction” and too much time required.