Why More Canadian Mall Landlords Should Utilize Apple Maps for Customer Navigation

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By Larry Leung


The shopping centre directory map has been in existence since the first enclosed climate-controlled mall was built in Edina, Minnesota in 1956. The Southdale Center had an alphabetical listing of store names by category (e.g. apparel) followed by their location in an imprecise map.  Navigating through the directory to find a store was an easier task when malls were smaller in size, however. The challenge became more enormous for time deficient customers trying to locate a store in the 3.8-million square foot West Edmonton Mall, for example.

Apple noted the navigation obstacles as an opportunity to innovate by introducing indoor mapping capacities in 2017’s iOS 11’s update for select iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users.

Since its introduction in September 2017, many Canadian malls have jumped on board with indoor mapping. Here we explore the features Apple Maps bring to malls currently, reasons why mall operators should get on board and new ideas that can improve engagement, productivity and customer satisfaction.

Apple Maps


While indoor mapping was added in September of 2017, it was not until August of 2018 that the first batch of 18 Canadian malls were added to Apple Maps’ coverage list. These malls, with the exception of Square One in Mississauga, are managed by Cadillac Fairview (CF). Those malls include:  

British Columbia (1)

  • CF Richmond Centre in Richmond

Alberta (2)

  • CF Chinook Centre in Calgary

  • CF Market Mall in Calgary

Manitoba (1)

  • CF Polo Park in Winnipeg

Ontario (9)

  • CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa (refer to the screenshot below for a floor map shown inside Apple Maps)

  • CF Markville in Markham

  • CF Shops at Don Mills in Toronto

  • CF Fairview Mall in Toronto

  • CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto

  • Square One in Mississauga

  • CF Lime Ridge in Hamilton

  • CF Fairview Park in Kitchener

  • CF Masonville Place in London

Québec (4)

  • CF Galeries D’Anjou in Montréal

  • CF Carrefour Laval in Laval

  • CF Promenades St-Bruno in Saint-Bruno

  • CF Fairview Pointe Claire in Pointe-Claire

New Brunswick (1)

  • CF Champlain Place in Dieppe  

While some of Canada’s largest malls have signed on to be featured on Apple Maps (West Edmonton Mall and CF Toronto Eaton Centre are recent additions), 11 of the top 20 biggest still have not participated. Those include:

British Columbia (3)

  • Metropolis at Metrotown, Vancouver

  • Park Royal, West Vancouver

  • Guildford Town Centre, Surrey

Alberta (1)

  • CrossIron Mills in Calgary

Ontario (5)

  • Bramalea City Centre in Brampton

  • Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto

  • Vaughn Mills in Vaughn

  • Oshawa Centre in Oshawa

  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto

Québec (3)

  • Galeries de la Capitale in Québec City

  • Laurier Québec in Québec City (refer to the print screen below for a floor map shown without indoor mapping incorporated)

  • Carrefour de l’Eestrie in Sherbrooke

A side-by-side comparison of the two maps clearly shows that the one with indoor mapping completed has significantly more details of the retail elements.

Mall Indoor Maps – Five Key Features

Apple Maps allows customers to conveniently locate points within the mall at any time and avoid the need to check a physical directory or ask a guest ambassador where to go. The following is a list of five key features that make the customer experience at a mall more seamless:

  1. One stop shop for information – Most customers are unaware that the mall they are visiting may have a mobile application. With an expanded coverage and a common interface, Apple Maps makes it easy for users to shop in malls around the world without having to download another application with only generic maps.

  2. Browse shops by category (see below for an example of the categories listed) – Apple Maps improves searches by letting customers digitally locate shops by category similar to how a physical directory would function but doing it at their own leisure.

  3. Exact location – Using the iPhone’s GPS, customers can pinpoint their exact location so that they can guide themselves to another spot inside the mall. This would work even in malls with multiple levels by toggling between floors.

  4. Siri integration – Customers can activate the phone’s virtual assistant search by asking “Hey Siri, where is the closest coffee shop?”

  5. Imbedded third party application support (refer to the following example below for Starbucks) – Retailers with an application in the App Store can imbed it into Apple Maps so that customers can access them in one click. 

    Benefits For Mall Operators Gaining Access To The Apple Maps Ecosystem

Some may question why mall operators should invest in getting indoor mapping completed when the physical directory continues to achieve its goal on managing customers’ wayfinding needs. We have three key reasons why they should take notice:

1. Big user base

According to research firm DeviceAtlas, Apple’s iOS is the dominant mobile platform with nearly 60% market share in Canada for 2018. With Canadians owning over 25 million mobile devices currently, Apple’s share is approximately 15 million. That is a big user base that mall operators should not ignore.

2. Planning ahead

Just like going to a supermarket with a grocery list in hand, many customers and tourists plan ahead before they visit a mall. Centres with comprehensive indoor mapping have rich layers of information that would assist customers search and plan their retail experience earlier instead of wasting time locating a store at a physical directory. In addition, third party application integration allows for multitasking and new services (e.g. purchase ahead and pickup at the store). 

3. Digital Transformation

Mall operators and retailers are exploring ways to engage customers and improve satisfaction and sales. In combination with beacon technology, indoor mapping can assist in analyzing traffic patterns over a period of time and resolving space utilization challenges. Additionally, indoor mapping can open new ideas such as incorporating augmented reality into storefronts and gamification of the shopping experience (refer to Retailer Insider’s article on how Cadillac Fairview digitally disrupts retail with the Ravel by CF initiative).

Future Ideas

Apple Maps is playing catch up with its chief competitor Google Maps as the de facto mapping application for users. While Apple as a company has come a long way by introducing indoor mapping, implementing the following wish list items can further improve the customer experience at the mall:

  1. Extend real time end-to-end navigation inside the mall and bigger stores – Apple Maps currently provides navigation information to customers but not inside the mall unlike Google Maps does. This addition can provide customers with more accurate way finding information.

  2. Update its Maps API to include more information – Mall operators and customers alike can benefit with new fields that would highlight special events through banners (e.g. a Christmas tree lighting), sales promotions or art installations updated dramatically by the mall operator or specific store. This would improve the way Apple Maps interacts and engages with potential customers and introduces new concepts such as gamification of the shopping experience.

  3. Deeper integration with Apple and third-party applications – For customers, new shortcuts and features can allow them, for example, to make a quick reservation inside Apple Maps and show it in Calendar dramatically. For mall operators and retailers, new reporting features can provide them with increased levels of customer experience data.

    As digital transformation in the retail industry moves in a rapid pace, tools such as Apple Maps can change customer behaviours and allow mall operators to find new ways to engage and interact with higher success.

Larry Leung is a research and strategy director based in Toronto. He focuses on technology, experience creation, marketing and loyalty in the aviation and retail industries. Larry contributes blog posts for aviation consulting company Experience The Skies (www.experiencetheskies.com) and writes for Urban Toronto. Follow him on Twitter at @larrykleung. You can also email him at: lleung@experiencetheskies.com



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