How to Build IoT Applications for Shopping Malls?

Updated on Dec 15th, 2023


Retailers and shopping malls around the globe are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide a more personalized experience to their shoppers and streamline their internal business processes. IoT creates a local mesh of net-enabled devices and sensors that share data and instructions in real-time. Business owners access this data with the help of IoT applications. These applications allow malls and retailers to study real-time data and critical insights with the help of AI and ML engines. Business owners use these insights to provide better customer services to the shoppers and streamline internal processes.

From the real-time location tracking of the customers and using that data to understand customer behavior to smarter inventory and shelf management, IoT app development is helping malls and retail outlets in many ways. Companies such as Zara, Tesco, and Walmart have released IoT-based smart devices that allow them to provide a better customer experience to their shoppers. Furthermore, Amazon has introduced a self-checkout service in their first outlet store in Seattle.

According to the data, the global IoT retail market was valued at $ 35.63 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach 67.60 by 2026 at a CAGR of 11.3%. These figures clearly show a growing interest in IoT from the retail sector in the coming years. And in this post, we will learn about different types of IoT applications that can be developed for malls and how to develop them.

  • IoT applications can help mall managers make their shopping malls more streamlined and boost productivity.
  • With the help of well-placed IoT controllers, managers can optimally control energy allocation, thus saving money and energy. 
  • Mall managers can also use IoT applications to study customer behavior and learn about their shopping habits. 
  • Using customer data, IoT software can create marketing and sales plans to generate most profits. 
  • For IoT software development, you need an IoT development partner who knows the ins and outs of the industry and can guide you through the tumultuous waters of software development. You need an IoT developer you can trust and who will respect your vision and needs.

Types of IoT Applications for Shopping Malls

IoT has many use cases in the retail industry. Before starting with IoT application development, you must know what type of application you need to develop according to your business requirements. Here is a list of all the major IoT applications that you can develop for your mall or retail outlet:


1. Location Tracking Applications

Some of the biggest challenges malls face are logistics-related. Late and lost deliveries are a problem that constantly brings down the efficiency of malls and retail stores. This problem becomes especially prominent during holiday seasons when shipments usually run late due to heightened demands.

An IoT-based location tracking application can help malls receive the real-time location of their shipments. On top of the real-time data, these applications can also determine the estimated arrival time of their goods by factoring in elements like traffic, weather conditions, and roadblocks. All of these things combined provide malls and outlet stores transparency in their logistics. They also allow them to place orders well in advance to ensure that their inventory is full.

2. Inventory Management Applications

Inventory management is perhaps the most notoriously difficult and tedious task in mall management. Mall managers have to keep track of their inventory in real-time to ensure they never run out of goods.

When done manually, this process is prone to many errors, thus resulting in inefficient inventory management. However, inventory management applications in conjunction with IoT sensors can help malls and outlets manage their inventories more efficiently.

Smart inventory management applications keep track of on-shelf and in-storage goods and place orders automatically when they detect that the malls are about to run out. These applications can also deduce the popularity and demand of products and decide when to place an order for a new shipment and how big the order should be on its own. Smart inventory management applications help businesses manage their inventory optimally and prevent resource wastage.

Also Read: How to Develop IoT-based Warehouse Management System? 

3. Mall Traffic Analysis Applications

Customer behavior and shopping habits play a critical role in mall management and business planning. Much like online shopping, where eCommerce sites try to understand customer behavior to make the most sales, malls and retail outlets also have to study how customers behave in their shops.

IoT sensors and CCTV cameras can be placed throughout the mall to deduce which areas see the most customer traffic and which products are most popular with the help of IoT applications. Mall managers can then use this data to optimize the layouts of their malls, decide which products to put on sale, where to put up product ads to ensure the most views, and learn shopping trends.


4. Smart Shelf Applications

Smart shelves are a game-changer for the retail industry. They work on radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and consist of three elements: RFID tags, RFID readers, and antennas. Weight sensors are placed on or under the shelves and are used to track how much inventory is out on the shelves. When the stock on the shelves is running low, an alert is sent to an IoT application/platform using the antenna, where it is processed by the RFID reader.

Smart shelves also help stockers do their jobs. As the stocker walks in the aisle with the digital list on his handheld devices, a shelf with low stock will light up, letting the stocker know that it needs restocking.

5. Personalized Customer Experience Applications

One of the biggest advantages of online shopping, aside from accessibility and mobility, is personalized shopping experiences for every customer. eCommerce sites keep track of all your past purchases and stuff you have browsed for in the past. Based on this data, they then start targeted marketing, sending you notifications when a product you showed interest in is going on sale or when a product similar to the one you purchased in the past is available. This helps eCommerce sites get repeated business from their customers and instills a feeling of personalization.

Malls and retail outlets need to do the same thing as well. IoT-based applications coupled with Geofencing and IoT beacons allow malls to target their customers more efficiently. For instance, sales and coupons can be sent to their customers whenever they cross from outside their mall. Starbucks does the very same thing, where it sends notifications to their past customers about new brews as they are passing in front of their shops.

Also Read: How to Develop an App Based on Internet of Things?

6. Predictive Equipment Maintenance Applications

Equipment failure can be catastrophic for malls, especially in sections where equipment is vital for the goods’ health, like refrigerators in the dairy and produce sections. Nowadays, most malls and outlets install IoT sensors in their equipment that constantly track their health. The data is then sent back to the predictive equipment maintenance application, where the manager can track it. Based on the data, these applications can predict if any equipment is about to break down. This way, managers can take actions to prevent the failure by getting the equipment repaired.

How to Develop an IoT Application for Shopping Malls?

Now that we know the various types of IoT applications you can develop for your mall or retail outlet, it’s time to learn how to develop them. 


1. Identify Your Pain Points

The first step in IoT application development is identifying the pain points. You need to pinpoint the things preventing you from optimizing a certain portion of your business process. For instance, if you have a hard time locating your employees on your premises or struggle with inventory management.

These pain points will be the jumping-off point for your IoT app development process since they will tell you what type of app you need to build to meet your requirements.

After identifying your pain points, make a list of all the things you need to be fixed. Remember that creating an all-encompassing IoT app is a big and complex process. So if this is the first time you are developing an app, then it is best to focus on dealing with one pain point at a time.

If you are working with an experienced and skilled IoT developer, then they will guide you through the entire process and will be able to integrate more features in the future.

2. Conduct Thorough Market Research

Once you have a list of your needs, you need to study the market and see how you can meet those needs. The best way to find solutions to your problems is by studying your competitors. Competitor analysis will tell you how they fixed the issues you are facing. Furthermore, you can also learn from their mistakes and make a better IoT solution for your mall.  

It is vital that before you commit to an expensive IoT implementation process for your mall, you know what options are available to you.

If you are building an application like customer experience personalization, then interviewing customers is also essential. This will allow you to learn what type of shopping experiences customers want when shopping with you. You can take it further and conduct separate customer interviews for different locations. This will help you in personalizing the shopping experience for various demographics.

Market research will form the foundation of your application planning and development processes, so make sure you commit to it and dig out as much as possible.

3. Application Planning and Budget Allocation

With the help of the knowledge you gained from your market research and your list of requirements, you can now start planning your app. Before you involve a enterprise software development company, you need to know what you want from your application. While detailed application planning is best done with an experienced developer, you must know what features you want to add, what platforms you want your applications to run on, etc., before hiring a developer.

On top of the application planning, you should also allocate a budget for your application. While proposing your application idea to the mall owners, you must remember that implementing IoT can cost a lot of money. On top of the software part, you will need high-end IoT sensors and wireless devices. While presenting your proposal to the investors, you only need to convince them that there is a problem in the mall and it can be solved by IoT application development. The budget and planning aspects are prone to changes as an expert developer is involved.   

4. Hire and Experience IoT Application Developer

Once you have convinced the higher-ups, it’s time to look for an IoT application developer for the retail sector. There are many amazing development companies out there that offer great customer-centric services at reasonable rates. But when it comes to emerging tech such as IoT, your first and foremost concern should be expertise.

If you manage a big mall, the probability of errors and mishappenings increases drastically. And you need a development partner who can understand your requirements, provide impeccable consultation, and develop top-notch applications that complement your IoT sensors and other wireless devices.

Custom software development will require a developer who doesn’t just follow a set of rules to create an application that already exists. It requires a developer who can build solutions from the ground up, has deep knowledge and understanding of IoT, and knows how to handle long and complex projects.

While looking for an IoT application developer, read client reviews on platforms like Clutch. Also, study their portfolios to see what type of projects they have done in the past.

5. Develop your IoT Application

Based on your needs, your application can be developed for various platforms. From company-issued handheld devices to cloud IoT platforms, you have many options available to you. Your developer will help you choose a platform that meets your needs the most.  

Application development is a long and complex project that requires a lot of investment. So before investing heavily in full-fledged software, it is best to develop a proof of concept (POC) first. A POC will require your developers to install the necessary sensors at the critical locations across the mall and then develop a small application to show you that your needs can be met by their architecture and application design. 

Also Read: How can IoT Enhance Your Business Growth? 

Once you have accepted the POC, the development phase can begin.

IoT application development can be a long process since, on top of software development, your developers will also have to work with embedded devices. Most developers follow the agile methodology of development in which the customer sits at the center and is given periodic reports about the project’s progress. You will have to work with your developer very closely and make sure that they stay true to your vision.

Developing a minimum viable product (MVP) is always smarter before developing a full application. An MVP contains only the core features of the application. They are quicker to build and help you determine if you are on the right track. If the MVP gives the expected results, the rest of the features can be added, and the application can be finished. But if it doesn’t meet the requirements, the developers can go back to the drawing board and start again.


6. Testing & Deployment

Testing is a crucial part of a software development project. It is when a dedicated team of quality assurance (QA) engineers tries to find all the bugs, glitches, and inconsistencies in the application. A buggy IoT application can cause problems for you, like ordering the wrong goods. So your application must be thoroughly tested before it is deployed. 

Deployment in the case of a mall or a retail outlet shop means the application is made available on the mall’s local network and can be used by authorized people. Alternatively, if you’re working with a cloud IoT platform, it will be deployed on your cloud environment, and from there, people will be able to access it.

7. Application Maintenance

After deploying your IoT application, you need to ensure that it is being maintained properly. Post-launch maintenance and support ensure that all the bugs in the system are patched, and the accumulated data is secure.

Most malls have a dedicated in-house IT department. But to maintain IoT infrastructure, malls have to hire IoT experts. This can be a big financial commitment, and as a result, many retailers and malls go for post-launch and app maintenance services that their IoT app developer provides.

After the vanilla version of your IoT application is up and running, you can work on improving it as well. Based on the data gathered, you can find ways to improve your IoT infrastructure to get better and more relevant data. Furthermore, you can add new features to your application to make it a more robust tool.


IoT can help shopping malls, and small retail outlets make targeted marketing plans and streamline their business processes. With the drop in the development cost of high-end IoT sensors and wireless devices, the cost of implementing IoT in malls and outlets has become very reasonable. The ROI on such an investment is astonishing since well-implemented IoT will help malls improve their sales, cut out wastages, and give their shoppers a more personalized experience to build brand value.  

If you are looking to implement IoT in your shopping mall or outlet, Matellio has years of experience as an IoT consultant and developer. We design and implement IoT infrastructure flawlessly, thus allowing malls to gather critical customer behavior data and shopping trends. Our IoT experts help our clients from ideation to post-launch support, ensuring that we deliver a high-value IoT solution. If you want to know more about our IoT implementation and mobile app development services, click here. 

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