Westfield has an internal mindset when it comes to technology, according to CMO, Myf Ryan: "We don't use technology for the sake of using technology. If it doesn't live up to the customer journey or retail sales, why are we using it?"

Speaking at an event hosted by Qubit in central London this week, Ryan described one time, prior to introducing this mantra, when Westfield did not think about the customer proposition before implementing a new technology product.

"We did a test allowing consumers to order food via an online app, so they didn't have to go into the food court," she said. "But there weren't any queues [to begin with], so we created a consumer pain point when there wasn't one before."

She also described how the shopping centre once launched a consumer app for personalised offers. "But the content was quite poor and there was no real personalisation attached to the offers, so there was no uptake from consumers."

But Westfield is not alone in its eagerness to use technology. Ryan pointed to eBay and Pizza Hut who have both used technology for the sake of using technology – eBay for a recommendation engine based on facial expressions and Pizza Hut for a pair of trainers designed to order a pizza.

Ryan said Westfield now has a clear strategy when using digital products, which are to enhance the shopper journey before, during and after visiting its shopping centres.

Single customer view

Currently, Westfield is working on gaining a single view of its customers, by migrating all of its siloed, historical data from various parts of the business in order to join up the dots.

Ryan said providing a more personalised experience is very important for Westfield, but as a landlord – not a retailer – it is incredibly complex to do.

"We know very little information about our consumers," she said. "We have validated Wi-Fi, but the information we have is transactional and functional. We need to start to understand what drives consumers so we can move to a predictive relationship rather than the transactional and functional relationship we have now."

While the shopping centre business has already deployed 850 beacons which push tailored messages to customers at its two sites in London, Ryan said the company is now considering the use of AI and chat bots to build up its customer service proposition.

"It will be partly automated and partly personal," she explained. "We need to find that balance between the human and digital experience, consumers do increasingly expect both, but we need to enhance the experience rather than frustrate the consumer."