On the knife’s edge
In their heyday, shopping malls used to be hubs of activity, a place where everyone could find something to buy, eat, or do. The COVID-19 situation caused shopping malls to become hotbeds for COVID-19 clusters, bringing activities to a grinding halt.
The United States, once a trailblazer in constructing bigger and better shopping malls, has also been experiencing copious mall closures. A study by Coresight Research predicted that within the next 5 years, 25% of mall locations in the United States will close .
With such a grim outlook, how can malls remain relevant to cautious customers instead of becoming an anachronism from a golden cultural age?
Transforming the retail experience
As early as 2014, a McKinsey report argued that “malls will never be able to compete with the endless product selection, price comparisons and always-on nature of online. Nor should they try. Instead, malls need to move in a different direction, away from commoditized shopping experiences and toward a broadened value proposition for consumers.” 
Over the past seven years, this evaluation has proven true.
To achieve a “broadened value proposition”, business owners – or mall operators – can look towards integrating technology into the mall ecosystem.
On untapped piece of technology are shopping mall kiosks. Once ubiquitous in mall atriums, electronic kiosks have gradually disappeared from the public eye.
Self-service kiosk in action
However, not only are electronic kiosks relevant, they are an innovative solution which will not cannibalise retail space nor drive up business costs.
Using shopping mall kiosks as a mall map
Let’s start with the lowest hanging fruit for mall operators.
Traditionally, mall kiosks have been used to display store directories and unit numbers. Now that shoppers can easily look up this information on their mobile phones, mall kiosks seem obsolete.
However, Google Maps is notoriously inaccurate indoors, and unit numbers are an inefficient way of navigating.
Maps on mall kiosks can show where the lost customer is located, and display the fastest route to their intended destination. Furthermore, mall kiosks are more helpful to customers with accessibility concerns, as well as those who are less digitally savvy. In addition, mall kiosks can serve as a non-intrusive data collection point to help malls track foot traffic in malls and plan accordingly.
Thus, mall operators can bring back mall kiosks to common spaces with high foot traffic, such as mall atriums and entrances.
One stop loyalty program
To convince customers to patronise a mall and spend more time there, mall operators have to help customers build a deeper relationship with the space.
Innovative malls around the world have been doing so through mall loyalty programmes . Mall loyalty programmes offer consolidated rewards for spending at all retail stores. Some large-scale mall operators have even created loyalty programmes which span multiple malls.
An example of a mall loyalty programme from Hillion Mall Singapore 
By creating proprietary loyalty programmes, mall operators can enhance their value proposition and depend less on the attractiveness of their tenants. Also, it provides more value to tenants and supports their businesses – a win-win for malls and their tenants. Crucially, loyalty programmes cultivate connections between malls and customers, encouraging them to return.
However, mall loyalty programmes are by no means easy to implement. Mall operators have to record transactions, distribute rewards, and prevent fraudulent reward collection. And they have to coordinate this programme with all stores without interfering with their retail operations.
Instead of ensuring that every single store in the mall has the hardware and software to implement a loyalty programme, mall operators can install self-service kiosks in the mall for customers to scan their receipts and collect points. Having a centralised system also enables mall operators to monitor the loyalty programme.
Leveraging on point of sale kiosk technology, mall operators can also use kiosks to analyse shopper purchase behavior and provide an assortment of different rewards including parking discounts, shopping vouchers, and birthday privileges.
Self-service kiosks can also be used as a form of advertising. Unlike stores and billboards which shoppers pass by without a glance, screening advertisements on kiosks has the advantage of a captive audience. This is especially effective if kiosks are placed in common spaces where shoppers can take a seat or need assistance from the kiosk.
Elements of gamification can also be utilized to enhance the usage experience of mall kiosks.
Gamification turns a dull screen into interactive kiosks, creating a memorable experience for shoppers. Gamification is particularly recommended for “themed” malls, where the target customer base is clearly defined. For example, malls where the anchor tenant is a childcare center can be geared towards children, and treasure hunts on mall kiosks can entertain the children in the mall.
Alternative use cases for shopping mall kiosks
Innovative malls have also embraced kiosks through other means.
Top up station. In Singapore, food court chain “Kopitiam” has installed self-serving kiosks to help customers order and pay for their food more efficiently . It has even pioneered the use of cryptocurrency payment through kiosks, a first in the country!
Employment kiosks. While not strictly a supermarket, big box retailer Walmart has deployed kiosks to facilitate employment . Potential employees can walk into Walmart, input their details into the kiosks, and wait for a reply from Walmart’s recruiters.
Vending machines or parcel collection stops. Kiosks can also be integrated with vending machines and lockers for a contactless and convenient purchase experience.
These examples show that self-serving kiosks have vast potential use cases in malls, especially when used in conjunction with retailers.
How do I find the right kiosk for my mall?
If you choose to embed kiosks in your mall’s ecosystem, the interface of the kiosk is akin to the face of your mall. Ensure that the kiosk has good display quality, and a sensitive touch screen to avoid leaving a bad impression on shoppers.
Also, kiosks should have a built-in scanner to facilitate scanning of receipts for rewards programmes.
An example of a built-in scanner in kiosks
Look out for self-standing kiosks that can be shifted when necessary, instead of wall mounted kiosks unless there is absolutely no chance for the kiosk to be shifted in the future.
An optional kiosk feature is a built-in printer. This would be useful for mall operators which want their kiosk to print queue numbers, vouchers, or parking waiver tickets. However, for mall operators which go fully digital for their loyalty programmes, a built-in printer would not be necessary.
A mall(eable) future
Shopping malls used to be bustling and vibrant venues.
Now, mall operators have to convince shoppers to return to malls, and ironically to malls which are not too crowded.
Instead of relying solely on anchor tenants, mall operators can forge their own way by generating value unique to the mall. Consider using shopping mall kiosks to create a memorable experience for your shoppers today!
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