Shopping mall giant Westfield is testing out gigantic touch screens as a replacement for conventional mall information kiosks.
The new "Digital Storefronts" are on display at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in suburban New Jersey and are designed to help promote a new wing of the shopping center that opened in late 2013. The three giant 7' by 3.8' touch screens can be viewed in landscape or portrait mode, and essentially serve as dual-function information centers and advertising portals for mall tenants.
The touch screens were developed by San Francisco-based Westfield Labs, who were previously featured in Fast Company for their work creating similar touch-screen interfaces for eBay in a West Coast shopping mall. The Garden State Plaza project is the Westfield's first attempt at replacing traditional mall kiosks with touch screens outside of the eBay project at the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall. SVP Erik Kokkonen told Fast Company that the Garden State Plaza kiosks took approximately nine months to spec and scope out, and cost "in the multiple thousands" of dollars. In-mall customer interception surveys were conducted to help develop the kiosks' UI and aesthetic.
At the moment, the touch screens are only being used to promote stores and brands located in a recent high-end addition to the mall called the Fashion District. Initial tenants featured on the touch-screen portals include Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Bose, Tommy Bahama, Michael Kors, Vince Camuto, Maje, and Sandro. However, Kokkonen stated that there are longer-term plans to expand the kiosks to provide information on the entire mall, and plans to include availability information on items inside the stores themselves.
The touch screens are part of a larger marketing push to promote the new mall addition that also includes an upcoming Microsoft-sponsored parking lot concert by Macklemore.
For Westfield, the touch-screen kiosks have the added advantage of taking up normally underutilized space, as they're located in the middle of wide walkways. The kiosks also provide Westfield with more advertising bang for the buck: Instead of static mall advertisements with fixed ads that don't change for weeks or months, with the kiosks Westfield can offer advertising to multiple tenants—advertising that doubles as a novel, techy draw for visitors.
The technology behind Westfield's touch screens is within reach of their competitors—and, as prices fall and in-house marketing and research teams become more familiar with the technology, it's something that will likely become more common in malls across the country. Contractors for retailers and institutions are adding new functionalities, including screens that buzz back when you touch them.
[Images: Westfield Labs]