How Foursquare is helping malls become destination hubs

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If you’ve been keeping up with news about malls and shopping complexes, your perspective on the format could be pretty grim. The news would have you believe that revenues are declining, vacancy rates are at an all-time high, and anchor stores are no longer hooking consumers to visit malls in the same way they used to. But don’t buy into any overblown headline—this shift in shopping habits, where entitled consumers want unique experiences, is actually benefiting forward-thinking mall owners.

In fact, malls that have created unique shopping experiences for their audience have fared well. For example, mall owner Simon Property Group has commenced a multi-billion dollar program to transform its most notable shopping centers into experience-centric destinations that include a range of mixed-use offerings such as premier hotels and modern residences.

However, site upgrades are just one avenue mall owners can take. Digital presents a new way for leading retailers to support experiential shopping programs. For example, a product manager on Macy’s mobile team may combine location intelligence with customer data to craft more targeted conquesting campaigns. Because visitation data can reveal consumers’ brand preferences, this product manager can incentivize lapsed customers that also frequent Nordstrom to visit the chain using a time-sensitive offer. This type of contextual computing is possible because of digital-focused, omni-channel innovations.

The addition of lifestyle facilities and other experiential elements such co-working spaces also present a massive opportunity to attract and retain customers, as we’ve mentioned in our retail apocalypse blog post. Hence, these spaces will no longer be classified as “shopping malls” in the future. Instead, they’ll be referred to as “destination centers,” where shopping is a choice but not necessarily the primary reason behind a consumer’s visit.

Here’s what Natalie Hwang, Founder, Managing Partner and Head of Simon Ventures, our Series F lead investor and the technology-enabled commerce venture fund sponsored by Simon Property Group (Simon), has to say about malls shifting to becoming destination centers:

“To be impactful, brands must understand how to connect with consumers by leveraging real-world touchpoints to offer opportunities for actual interaction, physical touch, and immersive engagement. Given the innately experiential quality of physical stores, they present a unique form of media for brands to engage with their customers, articulate their brand story, and design the kinds of memorable experiences that create cultural relevance. As a result, we’re seeing a significant expansion of the role of retail estate owners who are becoming media owners as much as they are property owners.”

Therefore, malls should aim to reposition themselves from large retail complexes to experience hubs, and acknowledge that the need for customer experience necessitates the need for technologies such as those from Foursquare and our Pilgrim location SDK.

Pilgrim SDK Now Features “Mall Mode”

As experts in location technology, Foursquare offers Pilgrim SDK, giving retailers the unique ability to understand their consumers’ affinities, preferences, and more based on visitation behavior. It all comes down to our persistent detection of an app users’ movements in real-time—without them needing to open up an app or check in. By utilizing Bluetooth beacons, GPS distortion measurement, WiFi triangulation, and time of day popularity ratios, we know when someone has actually visited or stopped near a venue, as opposed to simply passing by. Continuously being enhanced, Pilgrim’s most recent update is to our visit detection models. Called “mall mode,” this release lets product managers identify multiple visits during a single journey to a large commercial venue like a shopping complex or mall such as Brookfield Place.

“We canvassed the location intelligence sector and believe that Foursquare has cultivated a differentiated level of data access that provides it with an advantage in delivering a real-world understanding of consumer movement trends. This capability is critical to success in retail and we view our investment in Foursquare as an investment in the future of our everyday experiences,” says Hwang.

The Benefits of Advanced Location Technology

With the release of mall mode, we’re excited to highlight how both retailers and consumers benefit.

  • Better visit detection – Pilgrim SDK can now detect 62% more visits—on average—at multi-story venues such as malls. Imagine the depth of audience profiles based on this data set. Product managers will also experience an increase in visit counts as the trips get longer; that is, longer shopping trips now generate more detected visits. As a result, mall mode sets the stage for better attribution and analytics opportunities for mall-based retailers, and improves visit detection in densely-packed buildings.
  • Deeper behavioral insights – Improved visit detection allows chains to gain a deeper understanding of users’ lifestyles, affinities, and preferences. For example, if you’re L Brands, the parent company of the popular chains Victoria’s Secrets and Bath & Body Works, and you’d like to promote a rewards program by notifying people with offers as they move throughout a mall, you can embed our Pilgrim SDK to know when they visit one or both of your chains.
  • More powerful enterprise solutions – Anonymized and aggregated foot traffic data from partners that utilize our Pilgrim SDK power our suite of location intelligence tools. In fact, we only work with companies that capture informed consent from their users, particularly for location awareness. Such visibility allows us to assure the quality of our products and the accuracy of our insights.

Invent the Future with Pilgrim SDK

Our mall mode update ties Pilgrim’s core technology with enhanced visit detection, enabling retailers to unlock new opportunities for futuristic thinking, magical customer experiences, and real-time engagement at malls and beyond.

If you’re already a Pilgrim SDK partner, consider upgrading to the latest release to experience the benefits of mall mode. Prospective retailers and mall owners can learn more about Pilgrim by reaching out to us at or reading about the solution at

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