Here's how Sunway Pyramid and other malls in Malaysia benefit from new-age screens. Source: Lantern Media

Here’s how Sunway Pyramid and other malls in Malaysia benefit from new-age screens. Source: Lantern Media

How Lantern Media helps brands and malls engage with customers

MALAYSIA has a population of 31.62 million people and approximately 700 shopping malls. Let that sink in, but don’t be shocked. Singapore has a population of 5.61 million people and about 103 shopping malls.

The reality is that Southeast Asia is home to thousands of malls. A quick Google search reveals that Indonesia has about 200 and Hong Kong has about 125 shopping malls — and new malls are being commissioned every few months.

As a result, mall owners are finding that demand for retail space in the market isn’t as strong as it once was, and prospective tenants are looking for concrete evidence of how they’ll benefit from renting a space and opening a new outlet for their brand.

Enter Lantern Media. The 13-odd month old business has a solution that not only helps owners gain visibility into specific areas of their malls but also helps them earn additional revenues to bolster their returns.

In an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia, Lantern Media Co-founder Paul Versley explained what his firm does and how it benefits malls (and also advertisers).

“What Lantern Media essentially does is install display units in malls. The units provide interesting offers to customers and invites them to engage with the unit, tap on advertisements and explore what the mall offers.”

Understanding how mall owners benefit from “screens”

So far, the company has around 101 screens in 7 malls and has helped malls earn MYR 150,000 (US$37,000) in the additional revenues over the past 6 months on average.

Each of the display units features a small camera that uses facial recognition to identify the gender and demographics of the audience when a visitor to the mall stares directly into the screen for a minimum of 2 seconds from a maximum distance of 2 meters.

Given the company’s wide (and quickly growing) installation of display units in shopping malls, the company converts 300,000 impressions from its monthly reach of 9 million.

“We collect this data and we share it with the mall owners who can then speak to potential tenants in a more knowledgeable way. They can use the data to provide insights about which spots are most suited for a restaurant franchise v. a fashion outlet. Mall owners can also use this data to price different spots in their malls competitively.”

Versley and his Co-Founders Leon Liew and Chester Ho are clear that they’re only providing data to mall owners so that they’re able to better manage their facilities.

“Just because we use facial recognition doesn’t mean we collect personal data. What we do is use facial recognition to identify the audience that engages with our display units. We only pass on demographic information — and this is critical for everyone to understand,” emphasizes Versley.

To be honest, before installing these display units, mall owners weren’t really tracking the demographics of those who visited their facilities.

The data that Lantern Media is providing these companies is quite useful — and mall owners are quite pleased with how that information is coloring their insights and helping them shape their own future.

“Lantern Media’s screens add movement and vibrancy to both Starhill Gallery and Lot 10. The screens’ content also keeps our shoppers up-to-date with various happenings and promotions.

“Lantern Media also provides us with age and gender data that enhances our existing data that propel our strategic planning. Oh, and the additional revenue doesn’t hurt either!” YTL Land’s Consultant Angie Lai explained to Tech Wire Asia.

“In addition to revenue, Lantern Media’s interactive screens give our shoppers more information about what’s going on at Damansara City (DC) Mall, as well as relevant information from sponsored content.

The facial recognition data that their screens provide also helps us make better data-driven decisions,” GuocoLand Malaysia’s Head of Marketing & Leasing Trincy Low said to Tech Wire Asia.

Speaking with the mall owners that the company has engaged with, it seems as though the company is on to something interesting.

In the near future, the company plans on expanding its reach in the country. Later, they plan to diversify their footprint by exploring facilities other than malls that can benefit from their offering.

Wait, how does Lantern Media earn its money?

Advertising! That’s how they make money.

The company’s display units provide advertisers with an innovative way to advertise and reach an audience that is in the mood to shop and looking to spend money on interesting things.

“It’s not really an easy sell at first. Most advertising agencies (and brands) are quite “sold” on existing out of home opportunities and digital media. Ours is a unique offering — and takes a bit of explaining,” said Versley.

“… till we show them (advertisers) the data. Then their eyes light up and they’re excited about what we can do for them,” Versley continued.

Tech Wire Asia spoke to some of Lantern Media’s advertisers — and they did seem excited about the offering.

“Our campaign at BSC (a mall in Kuala Lumpur) with Lantern Media yielded significant results, in particular by targeting the right audience consisting of high-income families and PMEBs who are frequent visitors at BSC.

“The interactive campaign element, as well as the reporting provided post-campaign, made Lantern Media stand out from other media vendors,” Tan Chong Motors Senior Marketing Manager Sabrina Sim.

“Lantern Media’s interactive screens inventory significantly helped us improve utilization for our cars at Lot10. Overall we received a positive uptick in awareness and brand recall. The added reporting also gives me a strong confirmation that the money invested is well spent,” said SOCAR CEO Leon Foong.

Although advertisers didn’t talk about conversions, it seems as though the fact that the company was able to collect plenty of data about who saw the advertisements was quite refreshing and interesting to advertisers who don’t typically get such data from out-of-home advertising or billboards.

To be fair, Lantern Media might not be the be all, end all solution for any mall owner or advertiser. Each stakeholder must look at data independently and analyze it to come up with their own insights.

However, the fact is that Versley and his colleagues are driving the industry towards something new — providing an option that leads retailers and mall owners to see the value of data. In fact, this could well be the first step to their data and digital readiness — whetting their appetite for smarter and more intelligent data products in the future.

Malls in Southeast Asia are clearly waking up to the need for data and analytics, and customers will clearly be the ones winning as competition between e-commerce and retail gets to a more level playing field.