Game-changing retail technology piloted

FEBRUARY 18, 2016

New technology being piloted at Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth sees stores able to communicate tailored deals to customers with smartphones as they walk the mall, at the same time giving retailers key insights into shopper behaviour.

Stellenbosch-based Skybird Technologies (Pty) Ltd has launched an integrated software platform called ONE, which makes use of specialised Gimbal proximity beacons. In a first for South Africa, this specialised beacon technology is used via a downloadable app which shoppers can use to locate special offers and sales involving their favourite brands. Some 300 Gimbal proximity beacons have been deployed throughout Baywest Mall.  

In turn, the technology learns shopper preferences over time and also makes key information available to retailers, helping them understand customer behaviour – from dwell time in store, time spent in various parts of the store, and what percentage of app users end up buying products, known as the conversion ratio.

The technology is already used at major global events such as the US Open golf tournament, the Super Bowl, and also at Apple stores in the US.

According to Skybird director Kyle Porter, SA retailers have until now only been able to gather such key customer insights by unpacking information from loyalty programmes, measuring shoppers through foot-counters, data from the parking pay stations, and also from Wi-Fi.

The platform being piloted at Baywest Mall could be tailored to handle other aspects of the shopping and retail experience, said Porter.

“This technology is going to be a game-changer for SA retail,” said Porter. “Already major national brands are very excited about being able to interact directly with their customers, rather than wait for their customers to touch base with them online or via social media.

“And the ability to know that I’m in your store before getting to your till opens up many possibilities to engage, up-sell and enhance my experience with a personalised offer at just the right time – that’s before we even start to talk about the massive data benefits to drive business intelligence.

“Internationally, malls and retailers have reacted to this new awareness with offers, personalised promotions and incentives to drive users back to their stores,” he said. “It’s no different to traditional marketing; it is just a new battleground where context, relevance and interesting content for users is of paramount importance. This is opt-in for shoppers – the app user holds all the power, so brands who do this well are going to have a massive advantage over their competitors who do it poorly, or even worse, not at all.”

Baywest managing director Gavin Blows said Skybird’s ONE allowed the property developers to manage and control their entire digital inventories – from advertising screens, to touch-screen info pods and full-mesh Wi-Fi in public areas.

For Blows, the biggest benefit was having control of all the data and the ability to leverage the unique understanding of shoppers' movements, preferences and dwell times.

“This allows us to understand our tenant mix and traffic flow in a way that wasn’t possible before,” he said.

[Click to watch the YouTube video explaining the Baywest Mall app ( or see what makes Gimbal’s technology so unique ( ]


ONE extends to not only smartphone apps, but also other digital inventory required in modern malls – such as Wi-Fi, fibre, advertising screens, information directories and the mall’s website – reducing the operational costs associated with meeting the needs of a modern development.

The analytics from this technology provides meaningful insight to retailers and property owners, answering questions such as shopper dwell times, conversion ratios, routes of travel and footfall patterns. This is in addition to the context and value the demographic data provides.

According to Keri Danielski, vice president of marketing for Gimbal, retailers are always looking for ways to better reach and engage customers to increase relevance, loyalty and sales.

“Consumers are looking to their mobile devices to enhance their real world experiences with location relevant and timely information. Once South African shoppers see the value in sharing their location with their mobile apps and experience the convenience and rich, instant engagement with brands or loyalty programmes they’re interested in, we will see the adoption of location and proximity-triggered engagement accelerate tremendously.”

Image: CONNECTING SHOPPERS: Baywest Mall shopper Azola Tybosch is greeted by the Skybird-powered app which aims to connect customers and retailers in real time, providing personalised information to app users about their favourite brands, stores and specials.