The way that malls market to their customers has undergone a sea change. Traditional ad campaigns have given way to a recessionary-inspired blend of social media and relationship marketing.
In talking with three highly active mall marketers, Chain Store Age uncovered four trends to watch in 2010. Most of the trends started to surface in 2009, but according to the shopping-center owners interviewed for this story, the marketing methods will mature over the course of this new year.
Relationship marketing: In 2010, mall inhabitants will see a new marketing attitude. Retail tenants, communities and mall shoppers will experience a strengthened relationship with local mall management.
“A focus this year will be understanding the dynamic of today’s consumer, specifically on a market-by-market basis,” noted Wally Brewster, senior VP marketing and communications for Chicago-based General Growth Properties.
Building relationships with the local communities will also be of paramount importance.
“With our market-dominant malls, CBL has always worked with the local communities,” said Barb Faucette, VP marketing for Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties. “But in 2010 it is going to be even more important that we create an environment in which members of the local community feel comfortable visiting, shopping and bringing their families.”
Tenant marketing partnerships: “We are encouraging our local marketing directors to recognize strong tenant marketing programs and, instead of telling the tenant to ‘keep it in your store line,’ as mall owners have done in the past, we are pulling those tenant programs out into the center and working with them to further enhance the programs,” said Jane Lisy, VP marketing for Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.
General Growth is leading the same charge in its malls. According to Brewster, letting retailers know they are supported in their marketing efforts is job No. 1.
“As our retailers continue to evolve their own marketing plans and develop their various promotions and events, it is our objective and responsibility to help them maximize their value,” he said.
Promoting value: Make no mistake about it—couponing is back. And mall owners have jumped on the bandwagon.
“Many of our centers have centrally located coupon distribution,” said Forest City’s Lisy.
CBL developed a sale offer called “20 Under 20,” featuring 20 items under $20. “The whole idea of trying to bring a value offering front and center in the consumer’s mind is what our focus is in 2010,” Faucette said.
Purchase incentive programs, such as spend-and-receive and gift-with-purchase, will proliferate in 2010.
New media: Twitter mania has hit mall owners as well. “New media is the trend for 2010,” Lisy said.
Mall owners such as Forest City, CBL and General Growth are all trying their hand at social media, employing Twitter and Facebook to generate shopping-center buzz and touch customers. But it’s not as easy as it looks.
“New media is a double-edged sword,” Lisy explained. “While it presents easy and cost-effective entry, it also demands constant care and feeding. Anyone who underestimates that will find the media won’t do what you think it will.”