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The Mall Is Not Dead: How Shopper Analytics Ensure It Thrives

1 April, 2015 | Nader Fathi

While empty, decaying malls make for inspired photo shoots, most of America’s shopping malls are actually doing well. In fact, according to new data from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, shopping center occupancy rates were 92.7% at the end of 2014 – the highest level in six years! Occupancy was even higher for malls (both super-regional and regional malls) at 94.2%, the highest since 1987.   

Since the e-commerce and ensuing mobile commerce boom, retailers and malls have been working hard to drive people into their stores and keep them there. Many have implemented innovative technology, including device detection and customer analytics software, to keep up with current shopping behavior trends to not only improve operations but also drive in-store sales.

Customer Analytics in Action

Mall operators have unique demands as they provide services to both retailers and consumers. To breathe new life into its space, one major Silicon Valley shopping mall, spanning both open air and enclosed buildings across several city blocks, sought to:

  1. Improve operations based on visitor traffic (for best retail mix/employee coverage),

  2. Help their merchants by providing better traffic flow data and visitor information, 

  3. Keep close contact with loyal customers by providing Social Wi-Fi.

Taking into account both the mall administration and retailers’ needs, the mall partnered with Kiana Analytics to capture customer behavior information via Wi-Fi access points both within retail merchant stores and across the mall grounds. Information collected from shoppers and employees generated analytics for the operations team to visualize the flow and dwell patterns of customer visits. This in-depth understanding of traffic flow led to the realignment of resources for:

  • Security and facilities management,

  • Staffing schedules (based on when and where visitors to the mall appeared), and

  • Maintenance activities (to reduce inconvenience to visitors and merchants alike).

One collateral benefit imparted to the operations team was better management of the “mix” and location of new retailers; with more knowledge of visitor traffic, the shopping mall could justify higher rental rates and better visitor offerings. Additionally, this mall offers a variety of events every week, such as live music, Karaoke Night, Game Night, and other activities. Using Kiana technology, it can measure which event drew more visitors to their site. This information is very valuable as not all visitors end up purchasing goods at this mall.

Moreover, a retailer dashboard was offered to the mall’s merchants to give them the same benefits of having visibility into consumer traffic in their own stores. Other features provided were loyalty metrics, consumer behavior analysis and overlay on traffic patterns across the mall to view the success of their own marketing campaigns within the mall environment.

By meeting the combined goals of supporting mall operations and retailer marketing needs with customer analytics, the shopping center’s management could better utilize their operations staff and resources, and provide their merchants with tools to understand how visitor traffic affects sales. 

D.J. Busch, a senior analyst at Green Street told Fortune, “As a mall gets more productive, it is more in demand from new, growing retailers, so it’s a virtuous cycle.” Well equipped with customer analytics to support emerging trends, the mall will be alive and well for years to come.

To learn more about how customer analytics software can improve mall operations and power location-based marketing, visit Kiana Analytics at