Westfield Labs, the technology arm of Australian shopping center developer and operator Westfield Corp., is creating technology to power the company’s $11 billion new development pipeline.

The Silicon Valley-based team of 70, alums of Amazon, Google and Yahoo, is looking for new apps and solutions that will make consumers’ time at the properties more pleasant and productive.

“We think about creating the next-generation experience for retailers and consumers,” said Kevin McKenzie, chief digital officer of Westfield Labs. “We think offline retail is growing due to online, but there’s still a lot of friction to it. Consumers make decisions on mobile devices. Offline and online have become one.”

McKenzie said Westfield is sharing information about consumer preferences from surveys and data from pilot products with its its retail partners that could help their merchandising and planning decisions.

The Searchable Mall, a feature in Australia at Westfield.com.au, gives customers more than the typical store directories. “Consumers wanted to know what products were being sold in retailers’ stores,” McKenzie said. “We aggregated their products and services. We saw a 30 percent increase in traffic,” giving consumers access to store inventories.

A perennial major source of frustration for consumers at malls is parking. “It’s awful,” McKenzie said. “We used technology to make parking easy.” Express Parking, a feature being piloted at Westfield London, shows how many spots are available in a lot, with 10 percent of all cars coming through the app. “We want to make parking access available to retailers so they can offer it to their special customers,” McKenzie said.

Westfield, an early investor along with General Growth Properties, Macerich, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, Simon Property Group and Taubman Centers, in Deliv, a crowdsourced same-day delivery system, is looking into other fulfillment options. McKenzie said delivery can seamlessly be integrated into a retailer’s checkout process.

“The Uber economy is not just going to be carrying people, they’ll be carrying packages,” McKenzie said. “How do we connect to these economies and think of the store also as a fulfillment center. We invested in Deliv and we’re thinking of the back of the house and how to get drivers in and out faster. We’re also looking at [facilitating] curbside pickup.”

At centers that started offering delivery, the service quickly scaled from no requests in the first week to 20 in the second week, to as many as 2,000 a month, depending on location.

In San Francisco, Westfield turned 40,000 square feet of shopping center space over to Bespoke, a concept that combines coworking areas, demonstration areas where start-ups can collect feedback from consumers and fine-tune their products, and pop-up shops. One of the temporary shops, Jake, is dedicated to “Project Runway” season 14 contestant Jake Wall. McKenzie, said Wall’s shop is an example of “the young entrepreneurs we’ve brought into the mix.

“We couldn’t be happier with Bespoke’s results,” McKenzie said. “We’re looking at other properties and staying behind our investment in San Francisco.”

Bespoke has attracted a new audience to the mall. With an 18,000-square-foot event space for fashion shows, among other things, it’s become something of an ecosystem unto itself. “We’re working with the retailers on unique events that aren’t just geared to selling products,” McKenzie said.

Westfield sees events as critical for drawing consumers to the mall. Westfield London, through a deal with Universal Pictures, holds its European movie premieres at the shopping center. Westfield World Trade Center will have a dedicated event space and team of event planners. “We’re thinking about content and experiences,” McKenzie said.

 

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