Owner of Malls Develops App To Help Shoppers Find Parking
General Growth Properties
Large suburban shopping centers are typically surrounded by acres of parking with no controls and no way to communicate parking availability to shoppers, who often drive aimlessly around the thousands of spaces looking for parking near the stores they wish to visit. In addition, once their visit is complete, they have the problem of finding their car among the thousands parked around the center.
Enter Scott Morey, Executive Vice President of Technology at General Growth Properties (GGP), and Stephanie Brager, its Senior Vice President of Asset Management. The firm owns more than 120 high-end retail properties across the U.S.
The two spearhead a program to develop a new tool to give shoppers information on parking availability at its properties using historical and real-time data to predict parking accessibility.
By using “heat maps” enabled by GPS data to show open parking spaces closest to shoppers’ favorite stores or restaurants, the industry-first parking feature provides them with added convenience and solves one of their most pressing problems.
“Mall traffic continues to rise,” Morey said, “and during peak shopping seasons, such as holidays and back-to-school, parking continues to be one of the largest ‘pain points.’ We’re always looking for opportunities to incorporate technology into our retail real estate to elevate the shopping experience.
“Providing more options for parking and promoting valet services are two ways we’re freeing up parking spaces for our shoppers,” he noted. “Combined with our new technology, our solutions are leading the way in providing mall shoppers with convenient and reliable parking.”
As shopping center traffic continues to increase and technology plays a larger role in the consumer experience, he said that GGP is “focused on creating new and innovative digital experiences that provide convenience, support and personalized engagement” to its shoppers.
According to a recent survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, approximately three-quarters of all U.S. adults went to a mall at least once in the past three months, and some two-thirds of Americans use mobile devices while shopping in store.
The firm’s first-to-market parking feature is the first in a series of updates planned to create digitally-enabled experiences at its properties.
“This is incredibly exciting,” Brager said. “We are actually using cutting edge technology to help our customers enter and leave the mall. Our goal is to make their experience as seamless as possible, and this program enables us to do that.”
Speaking from the top floor of a hotel in the firm’s Oakbrook Center in Chicago-area Oak Brook, IL, Brager pointed out available spaces and comparing, real-time, the space shown on the GGP app that customers use to find parking.
“We are actually making a huge difference,” she said. “Just look at the information available to our customers.”
To instantly view parking availability, shoppers simply open the GGP app on their iOS or Android device, select a mall location, and choose the parking option to view availability and plan their shopping trip.
GGP is currently launching its parking technology through a pilot program at four malls across the country: Oakbrook Center, Alderwood Mall (Seattle), Stonestown Galleria (San Francisco), and Ridgedale Center (Minneapolis).
Following analysis of the pilot program’s performance, a broader rollout to GGP malls will occur. By sharing its mapping information and parking data with its technology partners and third-party mapping companies GGP aims to bring its parking solution to consumers across different devices and services.
The system uses data collected by Inrix, a provider of on- and off street parking solutions to automakers, transportation agencies, technology companies and drivers around the world. These come from GPS data that tracks GPS-enabled devices, including vehicles and smart phones.
By collating these data, Inrix can supply information as to what parking is available, as well as traffic and other guidance information. These data are the source of much of the real-time traffic information available on auto guidance systems.
Echoing GGP’s Morey, Inrix GM of Enterprise, David Weld, said, “Parking is a major ‘pain point’ in our daily lives, whether going to work, out to dinner or shopping. GGP’s new mobile app, powered by Inrix, is an innovative approach to provide timely, relevant parking information to enhance the mall shopping experience.”
“We haven’t stopped with GPS data,” GGP’s Brager added. “We are working with Cleverciti Systems to install video mapping in our surface lots to give even more accuracy to the information supplied to our customers.
“We can also use these data to ensure that employees park in their reserved areas to make close-in parking available to customers.
“Giving our customers the best possible experience is our goal,” Brager said.
John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at