ShopBuddy smartphone app gives customers the ‘wow’ experience

Shopping centres may soon offer customers a fun, interactive experience thanks to innovative UniSA students. BUSINESS AND LAW
Shopping centres may soon offer customers a fun, interactive experience thanks to innovative UniSA students.

Who knew that shopping centres could be as much fun as Pokémon Go?

The augmented reality game, which has been downloaded 500 million times, is the inspiration for a new smartphone shopping app which has pocketed its UniSA creators $25,000.

James Baumeister, a PhD computer and information science student, and two UniSA research fellows Dr James Walsh and Dr Andrew Cunningham have developed ShopBuddy, a concept app which encourages people to get out of their homes and into the closest shopping centre.

The concept has taken out first place in the Retail Game-Changer Challenge, a competition backed by Shaun Bonétt, a UniSA graduate and CEO of commercial property company Precision Group, which owns a large portfolio of shopping centres across Australia.

Participants were asked to come up with an innovative concept to help shopfront retailers compete with internet shopping, which has had a profound impact on bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The winning concept offers shoppers a fun, interactive experience in retail centres, using augmented reality (AR) technology to give users special discounts, navigational aids and entertainment in 3D images that are invisible to the naked eye.

Unlike viewing regular deals on static posters, finding these deals is fun and rewarding, and the navigational aids also help people find specific shops without relying on traditional store maps which can be difficult to find – and read.

James says the concept offers customers the ‘wow’ experience in a retail centre, encouraging them to spend more time there and return on a regular basis.

“The competition presented us with an irresistible opportunity to take our theoretical knowledge and research skills and apply them to a practical, real-world problem,” James says.

“Using augmented reality, we were able to deliver entertaining graphics and navigation aids to the consumer while also helping the retailers market themselves.”

UniSA Masters by Research (Marketing) student Alicia Grasby and her team, which included Associate Professor John Dawes, Vivien Chanana and Dr Bill Page from the School of Marketing, were awarded second place and $10,000 for their Ehrenberg-Bass Shopper Metric.

Using WiFi signals from shoppers’ phones, the metric offers retailers detailed information about shoppers’ behaviour, analysing how many people visit the centre, where they shop and how long they stay there. This information helps retailers improve store layouts, window displays and the shopping experience for customers.

Eighteen teams in total pitched their concepts for a shopping centre technology solution and the winners have been invited to work with the Precision Group on the possibility of commercialising their concepts.