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The Mailbox is Transformed into a Smart Shopping and Leisure Destination Achieving a World-first in Retail Tech Powered by PlanIT Urban Operating System™ (‘UOS’)

The Mailbox in Birmingham, UK, has become the first shopping center in the world to launch a fully integrated retail solution, enabled by the PlanIT UOS™ platform to deliver a superior level of customer engagement and create meaningful interactions between the Mailbox, its tenants and customers.

In March of last year Living PlanIT and Milligan Retail announced a Strategic Alliance to deliver smart retail solutions. We are proud to unveil the deployment of our collaboration which serves as a shining example of how innovation in retail technology can bring about the ultimate customer experience while generating real value for shopping center stakeholders.

Welcome to the future

Like in many industries today, successful retail depends increasingly on leveraging information – this trend will continue in the future. Gathering, understanding and reacting to data from various systems, shops and people in a shopping mall can benefit customers, the retailers and building owners and operators. Yet there are few, if any, examples of how to do this in a holistic, integrated and harmonious fashion – until now. Welcome to the Mailbox!

Location aware technology has transformed the Mailbox into a “connected environment”, recognizing and communicating with customers via their smartphones in real-time before they arrive, during and after their visits, to deliver a truly unique VIP experience.

Market trends and flipping the paradigm

Retailers and mall owners have invested significantly in smart retail in the past few years attempting to improve the customer experience and hoping to drive revenue. These attempts have not been systematic and the general approach has been overwhelmingly skewed towards standalone solutions which do not deliver high business value.

The problem is that siloed solutions fragment data into a number of disparate elements, managed separately, with different rights management and ways of representing the information. This means that building or shopping center operators are not in control of their data, and if they want to combine separate pieces to do analytics and get deeper insights, it is expensive to cleanse the data to make that feasible and you cannot do it in real-time.

Another challenge when trying to create a compelling customer experiences is joining up all the elements inside a built environment. In a shopping center example this means ensuring that the customer-facing app is connected to the loyalty scheme, to the parking system, to current promotions, to restaurant and services reservations, to shops, and finally to historical records of behavior and preferences of individual shoppers. Each of these integrations is a separate business problem which is generally not affordable or sustainable over time and so it doesn’t happen.

Deploying the PlanIT Urban Operating System™ (UOS) flips this paradigm on its head. By using a platform designed to capture and integrate multiple data sources, devices, and applications, we put the owner or operator in control of their data and their environment, and provide support for all aspects of what goes on inside a physical space, from building controls to customer and partner experiences. Solutions are delivered against the platform, and therefore solution components – devices, or application content – can be changed or updated without disturbing the rest of the solution. This futureproofs the asset. And by sharing sensors and infrastructure such as networks and host hardware, we can reduce total CAPEX, as well as enabling lower OPEX through efficiencies brought about by better control through collecting more data. Because the data is all captured and managed by the same platform, it is coherent and analytics ready.

Because integration is now a given, not a problem, UOS enables rich, combined applications to be delivered, and different elements of the solution to work together and react to what people need or what’s going on at the time. This – plus the size and quality of data collected – allows us to understand our customers and target them with appropriate content and offers much more precisely. The higher quality of the experience and the reduced friction in going about their daily lives encourages them to make more use of the applications, creating a virtuous cycle.

And putting the operator in control of the data means that we can serve the interests of the customer much better with regard to aspects such as privacy. The Mailbox app is the first in the world – as far as we know – to give the customer total visibility and control of what data is collected about them, right down to allowing them to delete individual items from their personal history. This is only practical with an advanced data platform such as UOS.

Welcome to Mailbox

The Mailbox solution follows the ‘integration first’ approach. From an infrastructure point of view, a common backbone network serves all functions, including Wi-Fi. The customer registers once for access to the customer application, the Wi-Fi, and the Mailbox Exclusive Club loyalty scheme. The digital video cameras support not only CCTV security functions, but also video analytics which drive the advanced footfall and people flow measurement systems.

We have also created integrated ‘one stop shop’ location- and role-based applications for both the Mailbox customer, and shopping center and retailer staff which interact in real-time, all coordinated by UOS.

Talking about the features of each of these in turn, the customer smartphone app supports features such as:

The app for Mailbox and retailer staff runs on PC or tablet-type devices and provides facilities including:

UOS allows replication at scale and at speed

Living PlanIT’s platform approach to deploying solutions presents a massive opportunity to proliferate a variety of solutions for retail destinations as well as other types of built environments. The UOS platform enables independent software vendors (ISVs) to build applications like a Mailbox App. An ISV only has to build the solution once, and then it can be easily exported as a plug-and-play to other locations that are deploying the UOS as their digital infrastructure. This presents a massive opportunity to deploy this solution (and others) at scale and at speed.

Living PlanIT has a pipeline of opportunities that can replicate the deployment of this technology in whole or in part. In the last years we have seen strong interest in these types of solution from mall owners in Asia, Europe, and North America, because they see the potential to attract quality brands and tenants attracted by better functionality of the space and the many benefits of leveraging data enabled by UOS infrastructure. Tenancy space is therefore more valuable to both occupants and owners. Introducing new forms of technologies creates unique experiences and new types of human interaction in, and enjoyment of, our surroundings. This represents a unique and powerful approach to attract loyal customers – a real opportunity for top brands to differentiate themselves.

Quotes

Samantha Robinson, Head of Brand and Customer Engagement at Milligan said;

“With industry insight demonstrating that over half of shoppers respond positively to receiving retailer messages based on their location, and location aware apps boosting usership by 60% (FutuRetail Conference 2017) we’re going to see an increasing trend towards the technological evolution of shopping centers.

Customers are more connected than they have ever been, and their expectations for seamless, end-to-end shopping experiences are intensifying. By integrating the Mailbox’s loyalty program into the app, and transforming the center into a connected environment, our customers can share as little or as much information as they want to enable both the center and its tenants to shape content based on their personal preferences, and access rewards based on their individual shopping habits.

Recent analysis from the UK and the US suggests that the loyalty of a connected customer is between 3 and 8 times more valuable. The Mailbox app has been designed to create advocates to drive loyalty and spend, and will substantially shift our approach to marketing and engagement with our customers.”

John Stenlake, CTO of Living PlanIT said;

“Retail is increasingly an information-driven business, and yet destination operators and owners are often starved of quality, timely data. Our solution powered by the UOS platform, combined with an integrated destination app for the customer plus a flexible and responsive back-end system for retailers, addresses this issue while also providing agility in supporting new, interactive ‘smart retail’ features. This in turn meets three goals: attracting and engaging customers in real-time; powering deep analysis of audience and preferences; and optimizing offer curation and value add over time. This is typical of how the UOS enables and drives value for activities in various types of built environments, in addition to improving building management functionality.

We are proud to be working with Milligan and other partners both in this unique project at Mailbox, and in future, to deliver similar solutions based on this original and unique deployment in other opportunities around the world. Innovative aspects of this UOS-enabled solution, such as enhanced footfall and flow analysis from smart cameras and a multi-spectral approach to indoor positioning, can be applied to a wide range of environments from retail to transportation hubs, to hospitality and commercial spaces. Meaningful data capture and coordinated response in real-time enables both improved experiences for customers, and better ability to sense and respond for retailers and destination operators.”

Watch the Mailbox solution in action here.


About Living PlanIT

Living PlanIT is a technology company that created the world’s first Urban Operating System (UOS) which, in combination with the products it supports, unlocks the full potential of data to make cities better, safer and more vibrant places to live.

Living PlanIT has built an extensive partner network around the concept of a shared, unified approach to smart urban technology architecture in which machine intelligence moves ever closer to originating sources of data and control. We call this architecture PlanIT Edgeless Computing™ and it is implemented throughout the PlanIT Urban Operating System™, providing a framework for resilient and secure computer and systems architecture for digital and biological sensing, control, analytics, machine learning, applications and visualization techniques.

Living PlanIT asserts its rights to the following Trademarks: Living PlanIT™, PlanIT Edgeless Computing™, Edgeless Computing™, PlanIT Urban Operating System™, PlanIT UOS™, PlanIT OS™, PlanIT Crumbs™, PlanIT PlaceApps™, PlanIT Valley™, PlanIT Assurance™, PlanIT Labs™, PlanIT Retail™, PlanIT Life™. Any reference to these names in this content shall be considered as an assertion of these Trademarks.

www.living-planit.com or follow us on Twitter @Living_PlanIT

About Milligan Retail

Milligan identifies and releases potential in diverse and challenging retail destinations. With an inquiring mind and the wisdom of a multi-talented team, Milligan adds value – creating the stories and the magic needed to inspire today’s experience hungry customer.

Established in 2002, Milligan is a retail developer that specializes in the strategic repositioning of retail centers in an increasingly competitive and challenging retail environment. At the heart of the Milligan philosophy is a passion and drive to develop places where people are inspired to shop. Each project is conceived, designed and delivered by focusing on the needs and desires of the people who will visit, use and enjoy the space. In fourteen years, Milligan has developed an international reputation for approaching retail assets with flexibility and flair, and producing superior financial returns.

www.milliganretail.com or follow on Twitter @MilliganRetail

About Mailbox

The Mailbox is Birmingham’s premier shopping, office and lifestyle destination with exclusive stores, waterside restaurants, cafe bars, luxury independent cinema, hotels, office accommodation and 24 hour secure parking.

www.mailboxlife.com or follow on Twitter @Mailboxlife