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Ecommerce: Westfield goes digital

Shopping centre operator is trialling technologies.

Shopping centre owner Westfield is ramping up its digital capabilities - including digital kiosks, ‘searchable mall’ technologies and same-day deliveries - to forge closer ties with its retailers and boost dwell times.

Westfield Labs, the company’s research and development arm which is focused on finding ways to marry physical stores with digital advances, is trialling a number of technologies across its US and Australian schemes which it hopes to bring to the UK once fully tested.Westfield Labs launched its digital storefront trial in March at its Garden State Plaza scheme in New Jersey. The trial erected three digital kiosks, each with a 7ft-tall display, enabling shoppers to browse product images with detailed information, and then click through to see where in the mall the products can be bought. Brands signed up to the trial include Michael Kors, Sandro and Nordstrom.

A Sandro spokeswoman told Drapers the kiosks “helped increase both brand visibility and foot traffic” to the store, but added “most of this interaction tends to be done by teenagers and young adults”.

Next month Westfield will add audio to the kiosks, helping brands to better interact with shoppers, and for Black Friday - November 28 - mapping from the kiosk to a physical store will be introduced, alongside 360-degree product views and videos. Westfield is also developing technology that will let shoppers buy items directly from the kiosks for collection in store.

Erik Kokkonen, senior vice president of product management at Westfield Labs, told Drapers: “We are not just a landlord anymore, we are trying to build a richer relationship with our retailers. We want to take the experience created in store and bring it into the common areas. This is the glue between shoppers entering the centre and brands having the opportunity to showcase their most exciting products, and get [shoppers] to the right place [in the mall].”

Other trials include a ‘searchable mall’ website and mobile app enabling Australian shoppers to see products on sale from the mix of retailers - including department store David Jones and womenswear brand Sass & Bide - check availability, and then call the store to reserve the item ahead of collection.

Same-day delivery is also a focus. Partnering with parcel firm Deliv at two malls in California - Century City in Los Angeles and Value Fair in Santa Clara - Westfield is enabling shoppers at individual store checkouts to have products delivered to their home, or to a valet car parking space at the mall, in as little as an hour’s time. Retailers already signed up include Catimini, Hugo Boss, Karen Millen and Kate Spade.

Westfield refused to give precise dates for when the technologies could reach the UK, but a spokeswoman said: “We plan to have new digital experiences at our UK property next year.”

The advances will give Intu Properties - which owns centres including Lakeside and the Trafford Centre - a run for its money, as Drapers reported in July last year it had launched a transactional website for its 18 malls enabling shoppers to buy items for collection in stores or home delivery.

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