Shopping centres don’t just want your money, they want your data

Shopping mall - CC0 Public Domain
Tracking the behaviour of smartphone-using shoppers is an increasingly important task for shopping centres. It’s all about putting a carefully customised ad or offer in front of the right person, at the right time

The revival of high street shopping, combined with the relentless growth of online retail, has put big commercial pressure on many large shopping centres in the UK, the US and elsewhere. That makes any technological innovations which can help optimise sales per visitor very attractive.

However, it is also a trend which illustrates many wider digital questions. Which technologies will win out? Unlike the standards we are used to for services such as email, there is no one dominant technology provider for tracking location and matching up people over repeat visits. And who will own this data?

As with car manufacturers facing the rise of self-driving cars, shopping centre managers face the choice: partner with someone else with existing technology skills, but lose your customer data, or try to build everything in-house even though you are not a digital technology firm.

So next time you go shopping, take note of what happens on your phone – you might not only find an advert touting 10% off your favourite pair of jeans, you could also pick up a tip or two about the challenges faced by the industry.

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