Mobile app gives Singapore shoppers a virtual winter wonderland

Marina Square shopper Nick Francis Stephens, 39, and his 11-month-old daughter Kai getting their photo taken with a virtual Santa in the image, at the mall’s Augmented Reality winter wonderland display. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN
Marina Square shopper Nick Francis Stephens, 39, and his 11-month-old daughter Kai getting their photo taken with a virtual Santa in the image, at the mall’s Augmented Reality winter wonderland display. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

Shopping centres vie for crowds with high-tech apps, games and prizes

Shopping malls are giving Christmas a new spin this year by using technology to draw the crowds.

This ranges from online games and new free apps that make shopping more convenient to an Augmented Reality (AR) Christmas display that allows shoppers to photograph themselves with virtual images of skating penguins, dancing snowmen and Santa Claus.

At Jem, a new app even lets shoppers track where their cars are parked and helps them find their way there.

But one new offering that seems to have captured the hearts of many shoppers, especially children, is Marina Square's AR winter wonderland display at its atrium.

Its free app, called Marina Square AR Christmas, has intrigued shoppers.

By pointing their mobile phone camera at one of 10 markers, displayed alongside physical objects such as a 10m-tall Christmas tree, a sleigh and a log cabin, images of penguins, snowmen and reindeer pop up on their phones.

The picture they snap will show their loved one posing next to these virtual images.

"We wanted this to be a fun experience for families with young children," said the mall's spokesman Veronica J. Zuzarte.

"It adds a touch of Christmas magic when you take pictures with things you can't see in physical reality."

The downtown mall spent about $400,000 to build the crowd-puller.

Housewife Hilary Tan, 34, who took pictures with her eight- year-old posing next to virtual polar bears frolicking on arctic ice, said: "Pity we got some of the shops in the background, or else we could have said we were in the Arctic."

For Bedok Mall and Westgate Mall, new shopping centres due to open next week, two new online games have been introduced to encourage shoppers to visit the malls.

Users register at www.winwithcapitastar.sg to play the games, with prizes that include products sold at the malls.

If they share the games with friends on Facebook, they earn even more chances to play the games as well as win prizes.

"It's important to keep shoppers engaged even when they are out of the malls. We chose online games because they are very much part of the Singaporean lifestyle," said a spokesman of CapitaMalls Asia, which manages the shopping centres.

The landlord of commercial buildings also revamped its app, CapitaStar, to include location-based notifications that inform shoppers of special promotions when they are within a kilometre of any of its malls.

Other malls and associations have also jumped on the app-for-Christmas bandwagon.

The Orchard Road Business Association recently included a GPS-enabled walking map in its app, @Orchard, to help shoppers find their way around Orchard Road.

Users can also vote for the best-dressed building contest and win lucky draw prizes.

At Jem in Jurong, its new app saves shoppers the hassle of queuing at customer service counters to convert their spending into loyalty points.

Said accountant Sharon Lim, 30: "Christmas shopping is typically hectic, filled with queues and last-minute buys. So if there's a new app that spares me a headache, why not use it?"

kashc@sph.com.sg