Photo: Express Image
The Mall of America is not just your average shopping mall. It is approximately 5.6 million square ft. in size, which makes finding a specific retailer a challenge for shoppers. The retail stores know that it is imperative that visitors to the Mall are able to navigate with as much ease and easy-to-access logistical information as possible. The store owners want to decrease the chances of a shopper getting lost, which will maximize purchasing time in the store.
To satisfy this need, the Mall of American recently installed a large-scale IoT directory system that included nearly 100 sophisticated and connected digital directories. This project, which is the first of this size and scope, was developed by Express Image, based in Little Canada, MN.
The installation is mutually beneficial to shoppers and retailers. The digital directories increase the amount of time individuals spend in the mall’s businesses, as their loitering times decrease. And customer satisfaction levels have already increased, as they are able to more easily locate stores. According to data from Express Image, “with 700,000 unique sessions in the first month since the tiered installation began, Mall of America has seen the average dwell time from the physical directories drop from over three minutes to less than 40 seconds on the digital directories.”
Smart Digital Directories
Mall of America management partnered with Express Image to design and build the digital directory program. Express Image, which specializes in interactive digital and print media, has several digital offerings, including wayfinding directories, smart kiosks, beacons, digital signage displays, digital menu boards, projection systems, mobile applications and Web development.
Jeffery Sarenpa, Express Image director of customer-facing technology, explained how the system works. “The directories are built on Google's Chrome OS platform, utilizing Intel technology because of its security, reliability and ease of development. Chrome OS removes typical operating system headaches and allows us to focus on what we feel is most important – building immersive, effective experiences for our customers and their users.”
Interactive Wayfinding Technology
Express Image incorporated interactive wayfinding technology into the shopper’s experience to provide accessible information within a matter of seconds. This ultimately benefits everyone, because the client can include retail ad space in the interactive experience, which has reciprocal financial benefits. The consumer gets the information they need in a matter of seconds, giving them more time to spend at businesses.
Photo: Express Image
The digital directory provides shoppers with the following functionalities:
- Animated routes
- Retailer ad space
- Guest service information
- Text-to-phone capabilities
To further cater to the guest, the directories offer the option to text a map view with step-by-step navigation to a cell phone. At that point, the shopper has the opportunity to text live with a Mall of America digital concierge.
The personalized experience of interacting with an individual through the digital concierge program leads guests to discover the property in ways they may not have considered—ideally increasing the overall length of stay at Mall of America. The digital concierge can make a gift recommendation, book a dining reservation, answer a question about brands, or set a parking reminder. According to Express Image, “The guest can take the guessing game out of shopping and entertainment, allowing them to use their precious time in the way that they want, rather than searching for answers.”
Navigation for Millions in the Mall
The Mall of America has been an effective site for the project’s launch, increasing sales for retailers and decreasing loitering time for shoppers. According to Jill Renslow, Mall of America’s senior vice president of marketing of business, “We want our guests to spend their time having fun at Mall of America, not searching for answers. These directories save a significant amount of time and ease navigation around the property.”
In terms of impact for this digital installation, the directories have a significantly large reach, as the Mall of America has approximately 40 million visitors per year. With this in mind, Express Image had to ensure that the directories are accessible to a range of demographics. The directories contain translatable information for nine languages, including Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Somali, Portuguese, Hmong, Japanese and Arabic.
Find Your Way in the Wayfinding Opportunity
- If you are considering incorporating interactive wayfinding for your retail customers, you can connect with an Express Image specialist to explore its digital signage software and hardware options.
- To learn more about the functionalities of Express Image’s interactive wayfinding technology, watch this video.