Cadillac Fairview’s new app makes the mall ‘searchable’

From the Tech newsletter: CF Browse gives retailers more data on how customers behave at the mall.

Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited-Ravel by CF Presents- CF B

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Cadillac Fairview is testing a new app at its CF Toronto Eaton Centre

The CF Browse app will allow users to search and browse for specific products, brands and styles across retailers in the mall. It will also notify users of promotions and offers happening at retailers, both ones that the retailer is offering already and ones available exclusively through the app.

Jose Ribau, EVP of digital and innovation at Cadillac Fairview, says “making the entire mall searchable” by giving shoppers the ability to search for products without a specific brand or retailer in mind (searching for “black shoes” instead of a specific Vince Camuto heel) addresses a number of behaviours.

For one, it helps the shoppers more easily discover products they might be interested in, or promotions that might guide their purchase decision. It also helps more time-conscious customers find what they are looking for more efficiently, even if they aren’t sure the exact product they want or where to find it. Most shoppers looking to build an outfit also rarely do it at a single store, so the app’s “favourite” function helps them keep track of pieces from different retailers.

“We do as much as can to introduce shoppers to brands, to experiences within the property they might not have otherwise,” Ribau says. “If you shop online, there are platforms and digital storefronts that do that for you. In the physical world, there’s very few solutions that get to that. By being in the hands of the customer, we can create a digital ecosystem to guide them through the property.”

Most of all, though, it helps Cadillac Fairview and its retailers fit into behaviours that have emerged among customers that are used to shopping online, or at least doing product research and price comparisons both before and while they shop in-store.

“The customer journey starts before they get to the property,” Ribau says. “Once someone arrives at the store, ideally, they have a great conversation with the associate and that helps them decide what to try on and they make a purchase and everyone is happy. But our research is showing they have done their research and do price comparisons and get recommendations as they shop, or in some cases seeing the product in person and buying it online to ship to their home, and the associate is just standing beside them. Shoppers come to the property wanting a level of advice, but in this kind of situation, the retailer isn’t part of that conversation and neither is CF.”

Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited-Ravel by CF Presents- CF B

In addition to helping retailers with discoverability of their products and promoting their offers, the app also gives them a better line of sight to the consumer.

Many of the retailers in its malls, Ribau points out, do not have loyalty programs of their own, so rely on third-party research done after the fact to learn about customers, when the opportunity is to reach them while they are still on the property and purchase intent is at its highest. For retailers that do have their own programs, their data can be combined with that from CF Browse to create a more holistic picture of the consumer; namely, providing them context by seeing not only who is interested in and “favouriting” their own products, but what other brands, products and categories they are interested in from other retailers as well, allowing them to see how they fit into the outfits a shopper is creating and their overall experience while inside the mall.

CF Browse was developed by Ravel by CF, the company’s internal innovation division.

Currently only available for the Eaton Centre, Cadillac Fairview plans to roll out CF Browse to its other shopping centres in 2020, and will also continue to upgrade its capabilities and add new features. Ribau says personalizing the experience within the app is a goal the company is building towards. He also adds that it plans to eventually expand to allow retailers to promote themselves and their offers within the app through paid ads, with potential ways to target users who have indicated an openness to receiving offers.

“We’ll get there, in time and subsequent releases, because that’s when it will really come to life,” he says. “But you can’t jump to that right away. You need to crawl, walk and run first, and the first step is bridging the digital and physical worlds together.”