, Thailand
Axel Winter, chief digital officer at Siam Piwat Group

Thai developer says malls stand out as ‘offline super apps’

The tangible business model for entertainment, dining, and retail under one roof still works, and improves with technology.

MALLS, in their traditional format, already function similarly to “super apps” by offering diverse services and products beyond just retail shopping, according to Axel Winter, chief digital officer at Siam Piwat Group.

“The mall actually is already offline in an analog way [and can be likened] to Super Apps as it provides a diversity of services and products,” he told Retail Asia.

As an example, Winter cited Paragon, a mall that combines many features: entertainment facilities that include an aquarium and play area, numerous dining choices, and retail options that customers can access both physically and digitally.

Digital integration

Winter suggested that transitioning to digital platforms can further enhance customer engagement by seamlessly integrating online and offline features. This could include streamlined parking arrangements and options for customers to collect online purchases during their next visit.

With simplified parking arrangements, for instance, customers could easily collect online purchases during their next visit or even make a quick stop during lunch if they are downtown.

One up for Southeast Asia, according to Winter, is that it leads in digital innovation by global standards. He said malls in the United States are just now beginning to integrate lifestyle experiences, whilst Southeast Asia has shifted its focus toward advancing technological innovation.

“I think definitely Southeast Asia is the leader here on the digital innovation side,” he said.

AI personalisation

Winter said the Siam Piwat Group is already utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to personalise customer experiences.

He said they are using different AI models for marketing purposes like image recognition and processing. By adopting machine learning and generative AI, speed and accuracy in transforming or translating data improves efficiently, he said.

“There’s a lot of areas where AI in any form has influence on digital platform architecture and also customer service,” Winter said.

What makes this integration easier is that Thai consumers are eager to try new technologies. Thai consumers, in particular, are leaders in adopting new technologies like blockchain and AI.

“The consumer is interested in innovation. So if you have new features out there, even if they're in a minimum viable product, or just as just a base feature, we see consumers really wanting to try it out,” Winter pointed out.

He said that as technology evolves, so do the methods for engaging customers. However, Winter pointed out that not all innovations manage to sustain long-term interest. “It’s a fast changing business in the sense where a lot of things happen every day, and consumers are happy to take a look at these things.”


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