02:02 am
11 July 2016

Harnessing Mobile Technology to Enhance Customer Experience

Harnessing Mobile Technology to Enhance Customer Experience

Our smartphones are with us wherever we go. We use them to wake up in the morning, to keep track of appointments, to take notes and to stay connected to our personal network of friends and family. The mobile device today is woven into the very fabric of who we are.

No one shops alone. And that changes everything.

Harnessing the power of the mobile device, as a result, is going to be critical for shopping center marketing for the foreseeable future. Gone are the days when if you built a shopping center—and filled it with enough big brand retailers—people would come.

Mobile technology has created a new dimension in shopping. Every shopper today can use mobile technology to be immediately transported to the ubiquitous, packed shelves of Amazon, eBay and the ecommerce sites of all well-known retailers. Shoppers know, if they see a better deal online, they can order it on their smartphone and have it delivered to their door in two days. Brand or store loyalty is rarely part of the calculation, especially for the fastest (or largest) growing population of consumers – millennials.

Buying online is easy, and most shoppers are now convinced it’s safe. But it isn’t much of an experience. Sure you can have products delivered quickly and you can shop sales and read the reviews. You can do it all from your desk…but what fun is that?

A Live Experience

Savvy shopping center executives today realize that mobile technology and bricks and mortar complement each other and are exploring innovative ways to use mobile technologies to interact with customers and provide a unique, personalized experience customers can only enjoy in person.

At a minimum, each shopping center today has to have Wi-Fi that reaches every corner and charging stations where shoppers can sit close to something that engages them, like a Starbucks or a food court, while they charge their phones. And that’s just to get in the game. 

It’s Personal

Beacon technology is an innovative technique that provides shopping center marketers direct access to shoppers in their centers. Otherwise known as “Bluetooth Low Energy appliances,” beacons installed in shopping centers constantly broadcast radio signals to shoppers who have installed a beacon app on their iPhone or Android smartphones. Beacons then use geo positioning to establish the location of an individual shopper. Depending on the number and range of devices you install, beacon technology allows you to see shoppers coming from your parking lot or more than a mile away.

Not only can you see them coming, but combined with access to customer data, beacon technology also allows you to send customized messages. If shoppers haven’t been to your center in a while, for example, you can send them a message welcoming them back and point out sales in their favorite stores as well as special events and other opportunities that past data shows they might like.

Beacon technology can be very targeted. A customer approaching a cosmetic counter, for example, can receive a message from a beacon installed there offering information about specific products and special sales and services.

Because of their GPS capabilities, beacons can be used to track how customers move around a shopping center in the same way that e-commerce brands use mouse tracking, engagement analysis and other techniques to assess shopping habits.

Beacon Technology Do’s and Don’ts

Consumers need to opt in and install beacon technology on their smartphones; this means they can also opt out at any time. Your engagement with them, as a result, lives and dies on how vital the shopper considers your messages. If you are not sending something he or she sees as valuable, witty or personal, they are gone.


Customers want to be acknowledged and facilitated. You need to be able to let Kimberly know about the latest sales at Anthropologie and, at the same time, direct Kimberly’s father to the nearest Starbucks or lounge area. Help them find what they want.


Customers don’t want to be constantly pitched or manipulated. You have to understand your demographics in general and customer profiles in particular. Send Kimberly’s dad to Forever21 too many times and he will lose his enthusiasm for the service.

How May I Help You?

Because it knows a visitor’s location, beacon technology can also act like a virtual concierge for visitors. Instead of looking for a directory or stopping a security guard, beacon technology puts an interactive directory in the palm of their hands. A shopper only needs to look at her smartphone to find out how to get to a particular store, the most popular restaurants, or the nearest food court. And the starting point is always wherever she is currently standing.

Beacon technology can even be used to place orders in shopping center restaurants. This is an especially productive capability for urban shopping centers. The ability to pre-order meals reduces the time it takes to be served making lunch at the mall a more viable choice compared to street-level restaurants in town. It can even make time for some casual shopping or a service appointment before returning to work.

Scores of retailers, shopping centers, hoteliers and other customer-centric organizations have been experimenting with beacon technology and plan to ramp up their use in 2016. New, innovative uses of beacon technology are evolving at a rapid pace including the ability to schedule appointments, save shopping lists, even activate display lights for products as a customer approaches.

The emphasis on enhancing personal experience plays to the brick-and-mortar strength of shopping centers. For all their bells and whistles and ease of use, ecommerce sites can never compete with shopping centers for delivering a compelling in-person experience.

Instant Accountability—The customer is always right … and she has access to the Internet. 

Developing an effective mobile technology strategy requires a shift in approach for shopping center marketing. The focus needs to be on what customers want rather than what you have to sell.

Studies have indicated that a positive shopping experience contributes more to loyalty than just accomplishing a sale. And, not only is loyalty more lasting than the gratification of a single sale, but it has a way of propagating across social media as shoppers share their experiences with friends and family.

Inside the opportunity to use mobile technology to interact directly with customers is a high degree of accountability. With mobile technology and social media, there is no place to hide. If your restaurant serves a bad meal, or the salesperson in the Sunglass Hut is rude, people are going to know about it. While you are reaching out to the center’s visitors on the front end, you also have to have the capability on the back end to monitor what is being said about your brand online.

Social media has a life of its own. You can’t stop people from saying whatever they want about their experience at your shopping center, and you can’t safely ignore it either. Tech-aware shopping center owners are learning how to use social media to help them identify and respond to negative comments to change the online real-time conversation about their brand. 

The New Market Reality

The always on, always connected community of modern customers generates a tremendous amount of creative energy. It’s chaotic, spontaneous and unpredictable, and it defines the new market reality.

Individual customers can opt out of mobile technology and social media, but managers and owners of shopping centers and retail stores cannot. Participation in this brave new world is a competitive necessity. If you try to control it, you’re missing the point. A better option is to tap into the creative energy of the community of constantly connected customers and learn how to enjoy it. Whatever twists and turns it takes you on, you and your customers need to take this ride together.