7 ways technology is transforming shopping centres into retail destinations

March 26, 2024

In an era of rapidly changing technology that makes predicting the future more challenging than ever, one thing is clear: what we expect of the spaces outside our homes has changed for good. 

Shopping centres provide a standout example; with almost unlimited online purchasing options at our fingertips, it’s no longer enough to provide a place where consumers buy goods. To compete with digital alternatives, shopping centres have focused on becoming holistic destinations that offer unique and engaging experiences.

Perhaps ironically, this transformation is being helped along by technology, which is playing a pivotal role in redefining the future of retail. Research from McKinsey shows that consumer and retail companies investing heavily in technology outperform their peers, with digital leaders creating three times the returns over the past five years compared to non-digital leaders. 

While digital touchpoints have surged in importance, the physical store has retained its relevance. The EY Future Consumer Index reveals that 55% of people actively choose to shop at physical retail locations because it gives them more control over their purchases. It’s no longer a question of digital or in-store—it’s a question of how to deliver a unique blend of both.

In this post, we’ll explore seven ways technology is transforming shopping centres into retail destinations that delight consumers.

#1: Beacon technology

Beacon technology has emerged as a powerful tool in the quest to create more personalised and engaging shopping experiences. Beacons leverage Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to emit a constant signal that interacts with the location services on your mobile device, allowing them to pinpoint your location within a retail space. 

Using beacons, your mobile device can sense when you’re entering a certain section of the store or approaching the checkout counter. This level of precision enables retailers to guide consumers to a high-quality shopping experience and collect valuable data about their in-store behaviour. Retailers can leverage this data to provide a more personalised shopping experience that better meets consumer needs.

#2: Omnichannel experiences

The consumer appetite for omnichannel experiences that seamlessly integrate digital and in-store experiences is now an imperative. One example of omnichannel is providing consumers the option to buy online and pick up in-store, which combines the convenience of digital buying with the immediacy and control of in-store pickup. 

Digital payment methods and virtual wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay can also minimise the need for point-of-sale queues, reducing the friction of buying and making the overall shopping experience more seamless. 

#3: Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality (AR) offers a unique blend of digital and physical. Using AR, retailers can empower consumers to engage with physical products and spaces in more convenient ways, like virtual fitting rooms that allow shoppers to try on clothes without changing physically. These ‘try-on solutions’ can also help customers visualise how furniture or other items would look in their homes, minimising returns and exchanges. 

AR also provides an efficient way to guide customers through shopping centres in a way that optimises traffic flow, such as pointing them toward the least busy restroom or the nearest relaxation space. 

#4: Logistics automation technology

Logistics automation technology combines artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and robotics to rapidly transform the retail space. One of the most compelling examples in retail is smart shelves, devices that monitor inventory levels in real-time and automatically trigger a restocking order when levels are low. This level of insight gives retailers the information they need to operate more efficiently and make better decisions about how to serve their customers.

AI can then leverage data from data capture hardware and software to analyse consumer trends and create precise forecasting models to help optimise inventory, personalise shopping experience, and enhance engagement.

#5: Building analytics

Building analytics software like CIM’s PEAK Platform is another key component in the burgeoning ecosystem of retail centre technology. For commercial real estate owners and their tenants, inspiring consumers to stay in the space for as long as possible is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Building analytics helps achieve that goal by optimising indoor air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, sound, and other factors that contribute to the overall indoor environment

PEAK provides real-time insight into energy consumption metrics and plant and equipment operation, helping identify and resolve issues before they impact the indoor environment or the satisfaction of retailers and shoppers alike. It also provides constant monitoring of air quality, temperature, and relative humidity, keeping indoor environment metrics at optimal levels for both energy consumption and tenant comfort.

The link between indoor environment quality and consumer satisfaction has long been understood, so it’s no surprise to see empirical evidence that people prefer to spend time (and money) in pleasant spaces over unpleasant ones. Perhaps more surprising are the studies that show the impact of ‘green’ shopping centres on customer satisfaction levels. 

One study found that a green shopping centre scores higher than a traditional centre in thermal environment, indoor illumination, relative humidity, CO2 concentration, and noise level. More interesting still, they found that customers have a higher tolerance for changes in indoor environment quality when they recognise that a building is green. Green buildings also enjoy the added benefit of sustainability credentials, which are increasingly linked to more profitable spaces. 

#6: Wayfinding apps

The convergence of personal technology and smart buildings is revolutionising the accessibility of shopping centres, creating high-quality physical experiences for people with visual or physical impairments.

Wayfinding apps in an individual’s mobile device can connect to sensors in an IoT-connected building upon entry and use audio systems to guide consumers through the space, describing their surroundings and the best route to their chosen destination. These apps can even integrate with a building’s facilities, such as elevators, to help users navigate crowded spaces efficiently. 

#7: Robotics

Robotics has come a long way over the last few years. Robot technology is currently employed to create cleaner retail environments, providing automatic cleaning and disinfection over large areas at speed. Delivery robots can navigate busy spaces to deliver products, even connecting to elevators to move around a building autonomously.


Thanks to advances in technology that prioritise the consumer experience in new and exciting ways, the future of retail spaces is bright. By leveraging building analytics and other cutting-edge tech, building owners and property managers can transform shopping centres into dynamic, mixed-use destinations that prioritise consumers’ evolving preferences.

Ready to transform your retail operations? Watch a demo to see PEAK in action.

Chris Joannides
March 26, 2024