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Mall goes mobile

Canal Walk shopping centre has launched a mobile application that lets customers create their Christmas wish lists simply by scanning products from ‚Wishing Walls‚ and ‚Gift Idea‚ magazines. This lets patrons spend more time relaxing instead of rushing from shop to shop looking for the perfect gift.

In a world first, the award-winning Canal Walk shopping centre has launched a mall mobile application to help customers create and share their wish lists for Christmas. The app has already attracted international attention to Africa’s leading super-regional retail mall.

The Canal Walk application has been tailor-made to help customers create and share their wish lists for Christmas with their cell phones, using the application’s Wishing Wall function. It even presents consumers with gift suggestions, appropriate to the age and gender of the recipient.

The app also features a store directory, store location service, movie show times and trailers, events and competitions.

The launch of the Canal Walk app heralds the first time in the world that a shopping centre enabled its patrons to create and share Wish Lists by scanning products from Wishing Walls and accompanying Gift Idea magazines.

What it means for consumers

According to Mr. Gavin Wood, Canal Walk CEO, this means customers can look forward to more time relaxing and less time chasing that often elusive perfect gift, running from store to store at the last minute.

‚We believe that being first in the market improves the environment for both our tenants and visitors, as the app helps customers plan their shopping trips to get the most out of the Canal Walk experience. It puts even more control in the palm of shoppers’ hands ‚ it’s like having a personal customer services assistant,‚ says Wood.

The Canal Walk app for iPhone, Blackberry and Android is available free at the respective application stores. For customers without access to new generation smartphones, a mobisite has been set up at, with nearly the same functionality as the app.

Once downloaded, customers can view products on offer by visiting the wishing walls that have been set up in the mall itself, or by paging through a special magazine with the same information. Scanning ten items, adding it to a wish list and sharing it with friends, takes less than one minute.

According to Prof Louis Fourie, Chair in Information Systems at the University of the Western Cape, ease-of-use is the hallmark of this revolutionary application.

‚Imagine the average male. Once your wife has created her wish list, you can click on gifts she has chosen and let the app tell you where it can be purchased. If she hasn’t created one, the application can make suggestions appropriate to her age and your wallet,‚ says Fourie.

‚The app then presents you with a list of suggestions, the shop where the items can be purchased, as well as the shop location in the mall. You can get amazing gift ideas sitting in a coffee shop with your friends.‚

International interest

Canal Walk has taken a brave step to roll out the innovative Canal Walk app, but interest has already been expressed in doing the same in India. Other markets that are being investigated are Singapore and the Philippines.

Also, co-owner of Canal walk and listed property fund Hyprop intends rolling out the app to other centres in its portfolio.

This means that Canal Walk is once again at the forefront of retail innovation, having already scooped some of the country’s four top retail property awards at the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) Spectrum Awards.

Canal Walk Snow, the centre’s marketing campaign for the 2010 summer holidays, clinched the coveted Spectrum trophy. The mall also received a gold Footprint Marketing Award for Canal Walk ‚Gets Social‚ , making it the only double finalist in the hotly-contested marketing awards category.

Helping South Africa catch up

‚South Africa is fast catching up to the rest of the world regarding the use of 2-dimensional scan-able codes ‚ the 21st century equivalent of bar codes ‚ using a smartphone’s camera,‚ says Mr Jacques Oosthuizen from Mallinfo, who created the apps for Canal Walk.

About a year ago, some local magazines started printing these codes alongside their regular content. Consumers then scan the codes to get access to additional video footage on the internet, adding value to the original content of the magazine.

‚The time is coming where these codes will be as popular as SMSs are today. It provides a short cut to a specific service or website,‚ says Oosthuizen.

‚What makes the Canal Walk app revolutionary is that it links these codes to products, not only companies or websites. If you can scan a product, you can save it on your phone and create a wish list. This is the first virtual wishing wall in the world.‚

Fourie says that the trend is for social media and social commerce to increase. Applications like that of Canal Walk help bridge the gap between e-commerce and the rest of the economy.

‚It is all about enriching the physical environment using technology and e-commerce. These two worlds are merging, helping consumers to spend their time effectively and enriching the shopping experience.‚

Consumers should also be on the lookout for smartphones becoming a preferred method of paying for goods or services. Phones may soon be swiped just like a bank card is currently used. The smartphone will then become the focal point of the interaction between the physical and virtual shopping experiences.

Future developments

Wood promises that Canal Walk promises to stay at the forefront of retail innovation in 2012.

‚We will continue to innovate in the mobile sphere for shopping centres, to create an indispensible tool for both our shoppers and retailers. This engages customers and merges the virtual and real world to create the best possible shopping experience at Canal Walk.‚

Future uses for the Canal Walk application are endless. The app will make buying gifts for birthdays or weddings a pleasure by converting not only wishing walls inside the mall, but the entire shopping centre itself into a gift registry, says Wood. Codes can be scanned from products in stores and shops can be identified using a smartphone.

Canal Walk is also planning exciting treasure hunts for the whole family. Imagine chasing clues throughout the entire mall, in search of virtual treasure. Winners will be able to convert their virtual prizes into the real deal.

Another possibility in the near future is to use the app as a platform to share coupons or vouchers with consumers. Customers will be rewarded with coupons the more they visit Canal Walk.

Although there is no advertising on the app at the moment, this may become a possibility, although Canal Walk is careful not to let the app be used for any form of spam.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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