Legacy mall home to cutting-edge retail customer experiences

| by Judy Mottl
Legacy mall home to cutting-edge retail customer experiences

Shoppers try on the virtual reality gaming experience at The Microsoft Store in Frisco, Texas.

While the NorthPark Center mall in Dallas, Texas isn't new — having opened in 1965 and now housing over 235 top retail brand stores — it is home to some of the latest leading-edge customer experience technology not found in most malls around the country.

But then again, as a mall spokeswoman told Retail Customer Experience during a tour this week, NorthPark is a place unto its own. For example, how many malls offers a museum experience featuring over 200 modern art pieces, as well as opportunity to literally try on emerging virtual technology, interact with a robot, and gets a close-up view of Tesla ingenuity and design?

"We're a real anomaly, we're a really special place," said Andrea Devaldenebro, director of tourism for NorthPark Center, as she welcomed a tour group attending the ICXA Summit held Tuesday through Thursday at the Omni Hotel in Frisco.

Devaldenebro was not exaggerating about customer experiences offered by several retailers at NorthPark.

There are huge digital watches hanging in the window at Fossil providing curated innovative content. At Tesla, consumers get to sit in the latest models, featuring re-designed DeLorean doors, and large digital  touch displays provide fast and easy access to vehicle information.

But likely the biggest draw when it comes to innovative customer experience technology is the Microsoft store.

There, shoppers are greeted by two different robotic customer interactions – the robot Pepper which is a big favorite with the young, and even the old, and Beam – a telepresence robot providing video interaction, due to proprietary software, on a mobile stand via a computer video system.

The store's Pepper is a humanoid robot developed by SoftBank Robotics and can read human emotions. It is programmed to provide Microsoft product information and eager to share product insight as well as encouraging social media engagement via selfies. Pepper even dances with shoppers.

"She's pretty awesome," said a store manager during the technology tour.

Microsoft has deployed a few Peppers at certain store locations. As very young children tend to want to touch Pepper she wears a sign asking, ‘please don't grab my hands.'

Within a few feet of where Pepper greets customers is a virtual reality experience where consumers don headsets can enjoy Microsoft's latest gaming experiences.

Across the store customers can also get a hands-on demonstration of Microsoft latest Surface Hub – a collaborative workspace, thanks to web cam capability and a slew of apps, boasting a 55-inch touchscreen display.

A short walk away is the Lego store where children are typically busy playing with the game pieces.
On one display wall, housed within the product boxes, is a large virtual reality experience that lets parents get a deep look at Lego building kits.

By holding a Lego product up to the screen shoppers not only get the unique opportunity to see what the finished masterpiece will look like, outside and within, they insight that can prove invaluable.

"It also helps parents learn how to play with the created kit," explained store manager Sean Davies, adding that 80 percent of the products on the shelves are VR-enabled.Products than can be used with the experience are labeled ‘digital box.'

On the screen consumers get a 3D-view and essentially see the Lego set come to life.The latest VR experience has been in place about two years, with the initial VR tech plugged into the store seven to eight years ago.

And it's not just parents who grab a 'digital box' product to check out.

"Kids naturally just grab what they're interested in and hold it up and see what they will be playing with," said Davies.

Topics: Assisted Selling, Augmented Reality, Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Digital Signage, Display Technology, ICX Summit, In-Store Media, Interactive / Touchscreen, Retail - Digital Signage, Robotics / AI, Store Design & Layout, Technology

Companies: Microsoft

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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