User Experience Innovations: How digital directories are using immersive technology to engage shoppers

Jerry Schweighart
Director, Marketing Operations

On a recent trip to Mall of America, I found myself in an unfortunate situation: I was lost. This isn’t hard to do in a mall that is approximately 5.6 million square feet. Fortunately, Mall of America has installed a digital directory experience that is immersive, engaging and highly effective.

The Set-Up

Rather than a single, large screen, there are groups of individual directory stations consisting of large, touch pad-style screens located throughout the mall. I appreciated that this gave me a personal experience and prevented people from looking over my shoulder and pressuring me to hurry along.


With so many locations within the mall, I had expected to spend a fair amount of time searching for my particular destination. But intuitive filtering made it easy to narrow down my choices. The navigation was visual, and utilized large, easy-to-understand icons and graphics.

Calculating Your Route

The amount of information communicated visually is quite impressive. Once your route is calculated, you receive estimate travel times for walking, wheelchair travel and pushing a stroller. You are provided destination closing hours, mall level and direction information and a reference to anchor stores.

What I enjoyed most was the animation. A prompt at the top right corner of the screen directs you to the start of your journey, where an animated avatar will walk your route. If there is a level change, your avatar rides the escalator to the next level.

Mobile App Transition

Here’s my big confession: With the exception of the Sears In-Vehicle Pickup, I can’t think of a retail app I look forward to using. However, the best part of this digital directory experience may be how smoothly it transitions you to the MOA app. I painlessly downloaded the mobile app and continued my journey by tracking my location as I navigated my way through the mall. Anyone who has been to Disney World will find this wayfinding experience familiar.

A Soft Sell

I was never overwhelmed with promotional messaging and was never asked to provide more information than I felt comfortable with. The offers I received as I walked through the mall seemed appropriate.  It was dinner time and many of the offers were for the restaurants that I passed and included simple ways to check wait times or make a reservation.

Most importantly, I actively used the app. Before heading to the airport the next day, I opened the MOA app and quickly located the most convenient places to have an early morning breakfast.

Final Thoughts

The overall user experience with both the MOA directory and app has me considering how a similar application can be applied in a smaller retail setting. Sears has had success with digital kiosks in-store and a kitchen creator kiosk in the Fort Collins store. It is exciting to consider how immersive technology like this can further give shoppers a truly “wow” experience.

Express Image, who created the digital directory experience for Mall of America, reports that MOA has seen the average dwell time from the physical directories drop from over three minutes to less than 40 seconds on the digital directories.

To me, this means people are spending more time in the mall shopping, dining and enjoying the experience. I know I did.