Malls Go Mobile

Virtual common areas invite store traffic

At Jersey Gardens, in Elizabeth, N.J., mall owner Glimcher Realty Trust utilized QR codes as part of a promotion that prompted a notable sales bump.

Of the common areas hosted by a mall, the busiest has become the virtual one. Increasingly, consumers frequent mall websites to check out promotions at their favorite retailers. Website views are nothing new — but the escalation in mobile connectivity presents a revolutionary opportunity for retailers.

“In 2009, only 1% to 2% of traffic on a mall website came from a mobile device,” explained John Dee, president of PlaceWise Media. “Today, there are instances when over 40% of mall website traffic connects from a mobile device.”

Responding to this trend, PlaceWise Media, based in Denver, introduced the Shoptopia mall network in October. Shoptopia is a cloud-based integrated digital media network that leverages online, mobile, social and on-premise connections to interact with consumers before, during and after a shopping experience. The most dramatic benefit is that Shoptopia enables each store to communicate on a local level with its shoppers.

“Every retailer in every Shoptopia center has a discreet store page and the ability to communicate information that is most relevant to its customers,” Dee noted.

Southlands, a vibrant outdoor lifestyle center in Aurora, Colo., participates in the Shoptopia network and Sean Belle, store manager at Eddie Bauer in Southlands, advocates the results that can be gained from leveraging connections.

“We looked at traffic trends in our store to identify when we needed to pull customers in; Thursday was consistently our slowest day,” Belle said.

Working with Southlands marketing director, Belle utilized the Shoptopia network to send an email blast inviting consumers in the center’s database and, particularly his store’s loyal customers, to a special “wardrobe” event from 5:00 to close on a Thursday night. As an added incentive, the store held random drawings for Eddie Bauer gift cards throughout the night.

“It was a great success with significantly increased traffic, and year-over-year sales were up 20%,” Belle reported. “By defining the time, I was able to schedule our most experienced, knowledgeable staff.”

Glimcher Realty Trust, Columbus, Ohio, owner and operator of 27 regional centers, also relies heavily on social media and mobile marketing.

“The websites for all of our malls are equipped with social and mobile technologies to engage and interact directly with local customers,” stated Jessi Fausett, Glimcher director of marketing. “In some markets, the mall will do one Facebook post and send one tweet a day; but others — like Pearlridge Center in Hawaii where consumers love to receive messages — the mall may send five to 10 tweets daily.”

Glimcher often utilizes QR codes to engage shoppers. At Jersey Gardens, the number of shoppers who clicked on QR codes to access President’s Day sales information increased 25% this year over last as a result of a “Scan and Save” promotion that shared a QR barcode on posters and flyers distributed throughout the property.

“Ten percent of the views on the website sales page came from mobile devices and were directly attributable to those QR codes,” Fausett confirmed. “Mobile marketing is effective and cost efficient — it won’t replace all traditional marketing, but as newspaper circulation continues to decline, mobile marketing takes its place.”

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