As the first shopping center operator in Germany, ECE will soon launch "Click&Collect" – in its "Future Lab" centers in Hamburg and Essen. Products can be bought and paid instantly by using the center app, which has already been successfully implemented.
The purchase can be collected from the respective shop in the center on the same day or later. For the first time, an app will enable shopping in shopping centers around the clock. More than 40 rental partners will participate in this pilot project, among them concepts such as Saturn, Bang & Olufsen, WMF, Lloyd, Wolford, or Napapijri. Center vouchers, which can be redeemed in all shops in German ECE centers, will then also be available online via the app for the first time and can be sent to any address.
Another innovation at the "Future Labs" is the contactless parking card with RFID chip (Radio Frequency Identification). RFID parking will make the parking process for visitors considerably easier in the future. Instead of having to open the car window in order to obtain a ticket when entering the parking garage of a center in bad weather conditions, the users of the new service can drive into a parking garage more conveniently without having to obtain a ticket.
The required RFID parking card can simply be kept behind the sun visor and will be captured by the sensors, which are installed at the entrances and exits. The barrier will automatically open when entering the center and the parking fee will be debited when leaving, automatically and to the minute. There will be no more waiting in queues at the pay machines or any hassle with small change. The balance of the card can be checked and recharged online at any time.
Joanna Fisher, Managing Director of the Center Management division at ECE: "Click&Collect, same-day delivery, indoor navigation, or mobile payment – these are the hot topics in the current debates regarding the future of shopping. I am proud that ECE can present not just one but several innovations in this field."
Future Labs have proved to be successful
More than a year ago, the new and mostly interactive services, which were summed up in the term "Future Labs", were launched at Alstertal Einkaufszentrum in Hamburg and at Limbecker Platz in Essen. The objective was to link the benefits of the online and the brick-and-mortar shopping world to subsequently extend the most popular services to further ECE shopping centers and refine them. Besides offers such as free W-LAN, which have become a standard today, the "Mall Wall" also appealed to the customers.
It is a large interactive screen which shows the latest offers in the center and provides gaming opportunities and infotainment. Innovative technology is expanding to areas which have not yet been in the center of public interest. The "Journey of the Giants", an interactive kids play area, has been another great success of the "Future Labs". The adventure playground is projected on the floor; the kids' can influence the game experience with the movement of their shadows and collect points. This very popular installation will also be implemented at other centers.
A success story: the "Love to Shop" app
The free shopping center app for Apple and Android smartphones is the heart of the "Future Labs". After their tests in Hamburg und Essen they were implemented at various other centers under the name "Love to Shop" in spring 2014. By using the app, the center visitors will receive customized offers from retailers and information on discount campaigns, events, news, and service offers of the center which was previously selected by the user.
By configuring the app, the customer receives the offers from products which they are specifically interested in – for example handbags and shoes. The so-called geo-fencing technology will send the information to the smartphones of customers only when they are in the vicinity of the center. "Love to Shop" will be available for 30 ECE centers by the end of the year. In the first weeks after its launch, the app was downloaded 35,000 times and 250,000 offers and news were shared; offers are already available from more than 250 rental partners.
What is to come: Indoor navigation and same-day delivery
The 3D guiding system is a popular and well-established service of the "Future Labs". Besides providing a search function for shops and individual products on a large touchscreen, the system can guide visitors to the desired shop with a 3D graphic on their smartphones. This feature will be extended to become an indoor navigation service which will be linked to Google Maps. It will show the exact position of the user and help them to find their way around the center. The floor plans of the center including information about the shops will also be added to Google Maps step by step. The so-called iBeacons are also being tested. These are small transmitters which are installed all over the center (similar to the satellites required for GPS) to locate the user.
At the same time, ECE is developing a "reverse" variant of "Click&Collect". This service comprises the opportunity for the center visitors to leave their purchase in the shop and have it delivered to their homes if desired. This will save the inconvenience of having to carry the shopping bags home.