Hi-tech shopping

Elite shopping experience is not the only thing on offer for buyers at the UAE’s BurJuman shopping mall. It also has a Wi-Fi network.

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By  Angela Sutherland Published  February 19, 2006

|~||~||~|Elite shopping experience is not the only thing on offer for buyers at the UAE’s BurJuman shopping mall. It also has a Wi-Fi network. The Al Ghurair Group of Companies, which owns BurJuman, has deployed the network so that shoppers can receive up-to-the minute information on stores and services within the mall direct to their cell phones, PDA’s or notebooks. “BurJuman [as an organisation] continued to introduce pioneering concepts and services for shoppers and the new WiFi service is yet another example of the shopping mall ensuring that customers get the best out of their visit to the mall,” says Eisa Adam Ibrahim, general manager of BurJuman. “The whole idea is to provide a shopping a experience that is easy and fun,” he adds. BurJuman is expecting a strong customer response for the service. Ibrahim says as more and more cell phones and PDAs become Wi-Fi enabled, visitors will expect to stay connected and updated during their visit to the mall. “This service offers them the option to connect and catch up with friends in the mall, view store and product information, navigate mall maps, read up on fashion news, play games and more while indulging in an unsurpassed shopping experience,” he adds. Hatem Alsibai, chief information officer for BurJuman parent, Al Ghurair Group of Companies, says the time had come for the company to invest in the new technology. He says shoppers of today are extremely technology savvy and they like shopping in an environment, which enhances their retail experience. “Wi-Fi technology (802.11B/G) has been around for a while now. It is mature, supported and proven wireless technology that can deliver data and multi-media services such as audio and video. Besides its good bandwidth, Wi-Fi coverage can be designed to provide concise and accurate coverage without transmission leaks outside the premises,” explains Alsibai. This is a first-of-its-kind deployment, says US-based Kosmo Systems, a digital media company, which was responsible for setting up the system. A distinct feature of the system, according to Alsibai, is its ability to serve highly relevant content to visitors. The system uses state-of-the-art technologies to determine what content would be interesting to each shopper. “The new Wi-Fi channel enriches the shopping experience by making numerous services accessible and keeping the shopper informed of current events and promotions,” he adds. “This is the most important return-on-investment (ROI) for BurJuman.” Shopper who enter the mall with a Wi-Fi enabled device will be invited to open a ‘BurJuman Wi-Fi Account’, which will be exclusively tailored to their individual wants and needs, allowing them to receive information on offers and events which they have specifically requested from individuals and/or stores that they choose to connect with. Richard Mayberry, managing director of Kosmo Systems, says shopping trends in the UAE indicate that mobiles phones and PDAs assist individuals with their shopping. “Cell phones and PDAs are poised to become ‘supercharged shopping aid [items]’ for the mobile-centric population in the UAE,” he says. “By deploying a wireless network offering localised content ahead of its competition, BurJuman is guaranteed to make a stronger connection with its customers and maintain its leadership position by providing them with unique conveniences and directly influencing their buying behaviour.” While Alsibai is not disclosing any investment figures, he says his organisation invested heavily on the wireless network project. Kosmo Systems and BurJuman’s internal IT team specified the network elements, and engineering resources took charge of the installation, commissioning and testing. As for the timeframe of the completion of the project, although there were slight delays, the project went smoothly. “As the network infrastructure is part of the huge expansion project currently underway, installation of the system could only begin after the network infrastructure was completed and handed over. There were some delays associated with the handover of the network. However, we were able to compensate for these delays in the installation and commissioning phases of the system,” he notes. Currently only 12% of BurJuman shoppers own a Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone, however, Mayberry says with so many new Wi-Fi phones entering the regional market over the next few months, that number would exceed 50% of all shoppers one year from now. “We are trying to accommodate the maximum number of phone systems and form factors,” says Mayberry. “Our system will work with Microsoft, Symbian (Nokia) and Linux smart phones, and can be viewed in both portrait and landscape mode. We are also finalising a design for the Nokia 9500 and the new 9300i which we will unveil next month.” Shoppers can choose to view the system in Arabic, Russian, or English languages. Kosmo Systems says the Wi-Fi network provides huge opportunities for mall tenants as well as those who are looking to promote their brands. Using interactive and rich media advertising methods available on the network, tenants can attract their target audience through ticker advertisements, button ads, e-coupons, games and mini-sites. Mayberry also says there will be upgrades and enhancements in the months ahead. “We interviewed over 500 BurJuman shoppers to find out what kinds of services were most important to them and the one thing that came through loud and clear was to keep it simple. Shoppers were looking for an easy to use system with basic features, preferably in their native language, so that’s what we focused on, initially,” says Mayberry. As customers become more comfortable and realise how easy the system is to use, Kosmo will add more features. “Our goal is to release one new feature every month,” he adds. ||**||

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