Westfield debuts mall of the future

LAS VEGAS – Few corners of retail have been as challenged as the mall. Regional malls are closing and foot traffic is down year over year. But operators such as Westfield are creating new technology platforms to recreate the mall for a modern shopper.

        Steven Lowy

Westfield is a 57-year-old company that once saw technology as a threat to its properties. But now it's building the "Westfield Cloud," according to Steven Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield Corp.

"Internally we built a platform that others can plug into seamlessly," Lowy told attendees at Shoptalk this week. It's the "connective tissue" that powers its mall of the future. "The digital platform sits on top of the physical platform."
Westfield has built this network at a London mall, and is testing its mall of the future where shoppers can digitally access and pay for parking, mark their car's location, search for sales or item availability at a retailer, and receive push notifications to direct them through the property.

The technology gives the shopper mobile control over their experience. It also gathers data to create shopper profiles that in turn push out personalized messages.

Data is, of course, key to the program's success. Also key is the need for retailers to share their data with the mall to create a holistic experience.

"It's all going to live and die off the collection, analysis and sharing of data," Lowy said. Retailers and brands are notoriously protective of their customer data, but they are coming around to see the benefits of doing so, he said.

"For physical real estate to exist, it must adapt and become exciting places to be," said Lowy. "Westfield has shifted its business model quite dramatically. All of our investments are in buildings in major cities, a lot of our smaller buildings have been sold."

The London mall is a test, and along with Westfield's lab in San Francisco, new technology will soon reach other properties. It's not a question of if, but when.