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Leading-edge technologies bring the mall into the future

Malls are stepping up their competition with multi-use outdoor centers by leveraging some very modern technology solutions.

When a movie or TV series such as “Wonder Woman 1984” or “Stranger Things” wants to remind viewers that it’s set in the 1980s, a brightly colored, nostalgically cheesy mall setting usually does the trick. But increasingly, malls are striking back against the growing popularity of outdoor centers that combine work, home, dining and shopping with digital features that are like nothing offered during the Reagan era.

Following are three recent examples of mall operators and retailers that are applying the technology of today to ensure customers have a shopping experience that is not out of yesterday.

Brookfield Properties – Mobile augmented reality
Major mall operator Brookfield Properties will leverage augmented reality (AR) technology from The Aria Network to offer mobile phone-based immersive experiences in all of its shopping centers. The Aria technology has the potential to provide shoppers, through the use of their mobile phones, the ability to interact with features including content, a virtual mall directory, wayfinding, immersive retail displays, touch-free transactions, in-store brand experiences, and digital interaction with their family and friends.

For malls and retailers, Aria says the use of AR drives purchase intent and higher conversions, and provides more robust first party-data with real-time insight into how shoppers engage, triggers to conversion, and what content resonates. Aria will begin working with key partners to bring the 2021 holiday season to life with innovative experiences across the common areas of Brookfield Properties malls.

Westfield, Simon – Buy now, pay later
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), owner of Westfield shopping centers in the U.S., is entering an integrated, multi-year national partnership with buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) provider Afterpay to offer consumers a more flexible way to pay for their purchases.

Afterpay enables shoppers to pay in four interest-free installments, using a one-time card to facilitate the purchase. Despite the acceleration of e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent survey conducted by Westfield found that 73% of surveyed shoppers said that the ability to go home with their purchases right away is a big factor in their decision to return to malls.

URW and Afterpay will jointly invest in new customer experiences, retail innovation, events, marketing and on-premise advertising at Westfield shopping centers.

In fall 2020, real estate investment trust Simon began enabling customers in the U.S. to pay securely and simply for their purchases at participating stores in its shopping and mixed use destinations in four installment payments via Afterpay.  Simon customers can initiate a purchase in eligible stores by tapping the card icon in the Afterpay app, which activates the Afterpay card in the wallet and can be used to make purchases with Apple Pay or Google Pay.  Shoppers can then take their purchase home and pay over time, interest-free.  Because Afterpay payments are made with the retailers' existing payment terminals, there are no merchant integration costs associated.

Tanger Factory Outlets, Simon Property Group – Micro-fulfillment
Tanger Factory Outlets is testing a Fillogic micro-distribution hub at its Deer Park Center in Long Island and will monitor its effectiveness before launching the solution portfolio-wide. Fillogic forward-stages store inventory to meet online demand, resupply stores in malls, and perform ground shipping ranging from bulk to next day.

The company will pack orders in retail stores or can take bulk orders to its own hub location to pack, sort, and ship. At Tanger Deer Park, Fillogic’s hub provides same-day delivery for local residents and also lets them make returns of online purchases in-store. 

Looking ahead, Tanger sees potential for Fililogic’s service as a ship-to-home service for shoppers who come from distant locations at its outlet centers located in tourist towns, such Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Atlantic City.

Mall operator Simon Property Group began launching multiple, tech-enabled micro-distribution hubs using technology from Fililogic at select retail properties in summer 2020. The company opened Fillogic hubs at the Livingston Mall and Gloucester Premium Outlets, the latter of which was Fililogic's first location at an open air or outlet center. One of these locations is also Fillogic’s largest hub by square feet.

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