Amid a COVID driven shopping downturn Westfield (ASX: SCG) has launched a new parking program. Become a member of Westfield Plus, and you get extra parking time at pay for parking centres as well as other “perks” from tenants, e.g. access to discounts.
One of the critical benefits driven by the extra parking time is the notification of the time that you entered the car park, thereby identifying when your free time expired. This capability might seem slightly familiar, as Westfield tried this in 2015 with some fanfare. However, this was a fiasco with significant security breaches.
capioIT was the one who discovered this major flaw in the solution and alerted Westfield. Westfield was caught entirely unaware and proved that it was not taking customer security at all seriously.
The original parking platform provided no security; anyone could register a car, and be notified that an individual vehicle had entered the carpark.
As a result, you would think that Version 2 would have resolved all these issues, and improved the safety perception and experience for the consumer at Westfield, especially for female shoppers.
Sadly, the answer is that with version 2020, change has been made, but it is not enough. Individuals can still be stalked, and their car registered to the Westfield Plus system by a third party without their knowledge. An individual can be at the shopping centre and be notified of the arrival of another individual. This is most alarming when consideration of people looking to avoid domestic violence, stalking, AVO’s or other situations where safety is at threat.
The new (old approach) was tested out at Westfield Eastgardens on the 26th of July, 2020. My son entered the car park, having previously registered my car on his device. He parked himself at the far end of the car park to where I would enter. When I entered, he was notified through the App that my car had entered the car park. He was not nearby, as he was parked about 100 metres away, and I could not see his car when I entered the car park.
This is a massive, and again as with the case in 2015, utterly unavoidable situation. What does it take for Westfield to understand the security needs of their customer? While it is an improvement on the first version, it is still a failure. The fact that you do not need proof of ownership to register a car, you can be notified from a distance that the person has entered the car park, puts the safety of vulnerable individuals at risk. There is no question of this.
In 2020, customers expect and welcome a digital experience. Even more than a digital experience, customers want to be able to be safe in any environment. If the digital experience cannot provide this, then it is a failure. Westfield should have done better. They should have done a basic test of the system by real people. They should have revisited the analysis I undertook in 2015 on their parking before making the same mistake again.
How do they rectify this?
All people parking must provide proof of ownership of a vehicle. There is no safe way to do it otherwise. No evidence, no ability to sign up to the App. There is no alternative. If that destroys the digital experience, then bad luck. Customer safety has to be the number one priority for a shopping centre.
Westfield has unfortunately failed again with its car-parking platform. It has not addressed the problems that made it scrap the system in 2015 after capioIT bought it to attention. It is another digital failure that puts the wellbeing and safety of vulnerable individuals at significant risk. Digital done dumb is dangerous. This is yet another case of that, and Westfield yet again has made customers vulnerable.
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