Why Simon Is Investing In Retail Technology, And What It Means For Retail Overall

  • Written by  Hongwei Liu, Mappedin

0aaHongwei Liu MappedInEvery day, we hear about the future of brick-and-mortar and the changes retailers and REITs are making to stay relevant in a constantly evolving industry. Retail real estate leader Simon Property Group recognizes the need to incorporate digital components into its shopping locations, and is constantly evaluating digital solutions that can provide mall visitors with a best-in-class experience. The decision to implement a mapping solution across its properties and web sites represents a larger shift in the retail industry to make the offline shopping experience as quick, easy, and seamless as the online one.

Using Insight To Determine Investment

Simon’s need for a new technology solution emerged from extensive research and insights garnered directly from its shoppers. It quickly became apparent that though the majority of consumers still prefer to shop in-store, the wants and needs of the physical shopping experience have shifted. Providing shoppers with self-serving tools that enable efficient and successful shopping trips are paramount.

Simon looked to invest in solutions that would meet customer demands for an improved shopping experience, and that would deliver an unparalleled journey enhancing their favored brick-and-mortar shopping destinations. After a rigorous process that evaluated both platform offering and internal infrastructure, Simon chose Mappedin to be its fully integrated solution, inclusive of 3D maps, search functionality, turn-by-turn navigation and platform management for its in-store, web and mobile offerings.

A New Standard For Success

Investing in anything new is a significant undertaking for a large company, but being a first mover in a relatively new technology space added pressure to the decision. Simon’s investment in digital wayfinding is specific to its customers’ needs, and retailers are starting to take a similar approach by investing in technologies that meet the same demands for efficiency and accuracy. Retailers like Ralph Lauren are adopting connected fitting rooms to improve the in-store experience, and home improvement chain Lowe’s installed space in its stores that enable shoppers to see a 3-D mock-up of their renovation plans.

As customer expectations shift, it’s crucial that both retailers and mall owners/landlords invest in technologies that can meet these needs. By adopting retail technology that can be leveraged seamlessly across all channels, retailers are able to deliver a consumer experience that addresses these shifted expectations. Landlords are hungry for tenants that drive foot traffic into their malls, and retailers want to be found in innovative spaces that cater to the omnichannel customer. They need one another to survive; landlords can’t secure leases if shoppers aren’t supporting their tenants, and retailers won’t encourage repeat visits without delivering an exceptional experience. Investing in retail technologies will keep consumers interested, loyal and spending, which is the ultimate goal for both landlord and tenant.

Moving Customers In The Right Direction

Though there are countless technologies to choose from, indoor wayfinding creates significant opportunities and efficiencies for consumers, similar to when outdoor navigation moved from paper maps to digital tools with the introduction of GPS. Gone are the days when customers lingered at the mall for hours on end. Instead, e-Commerce arms them with the exact information they need to make a purchase decision, and retailers need to invest in a solution that complements that urgency.

Retail is quick-changing, and keeping pace with these changes through a sustainable solution ensures consumers aren’t faced with the frustrations associated with navigating the mall. If a technology’s infrastructure is murky and making updates in the platform is complex, you’re back to the same problems experienced with paper solutions — inaccurate, outdated content that’s useless to consumers. When the right technology is adopted, customers will be empowered to self-help and property managers will be able to easily make changes to mall maps without the manual effort previously required.

What The Future Holds

Getting customers where they want to go easily is beneficial for a myriad of reasons. Extending navigational capabilities into expansive anchor retailers will further pinpoint customer needs, giving retailers a competitive advantage, and offering search and discovery down to the SKU level will make shopping in-store easier than ever.


Hongwei Liu is the CEO at Mappedin, where they are digitizing the indoors and helping people find their way. Six of the ten largest malls in Canada and two leading retail chains use Mappedin for customer wayfinding and managing spatial data. Formerly, Liu worked with brilliant people at BlackBerry's radio-frequency lab. Before that, he studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Liu has always loved technology, especially the web — as a source of knowledge, entertainment, productivity, outreach, and now as a way to make an impact. He is very interested in how web technology and brick-and-mortar will collide.

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