Study: Integrated social, digital media helps increase mall, retailer traffic

Las Vegas Among the news circulating the convention floor at ICSC’s annual RECon show in Las Vegas currently underway is a new report by Jones Lang LaSalle that indicates social and digital media is essential to the new retail environment.

Social media has changed how consumers behave, communicate, gather information, socialize and shop, according to the study, “Get Connected -- how to harness the power of digital media,” which also indicates that advertising and media strategy is no longer a one-way, interruption-based activity and should be interactive, dynamic and provide value to the consumer.

“Adopting an integrated digital media program is no longer merely important but absolutely crucial. Retailers and mall marketers must stay relevant to consumers and that means staying on top of social and digital media,” said president and CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, Greg Maloney. “We must engage with our consumers rather than talk at them. The overwhelming reality is that social media is increasing across all generations and the rules have changed. We can now solicit customer feedback and interact with consumers directly and in ‘real time.’”

The report found that 92% of consumer respondents rely on the Web to research and browse for products. That said, the company advises that e-mail marketing using coupon offers, sales, loyalty programs and e-marketing initiatives should not stand alone, but rather form part of a greater digital and social media plan to reach customers.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace map relationships among users and allow information sharing, the report said, and encourages consumers to create their own content.

“Consumers are now in the driving seat and are creating their own content. While this is a new concept, it also creates a huge opportunity for marketers,” said Beth Faulkner, VP marketing, Jones Lang LaSalle Retail. “Social media allows buzz and viral growth so if we reach our audience with the right messages, product information and offers, we can drive traffic to our malls and stores but also have a two-way conversation with our shoppers. Through this we can discover what they want, listen to their feedback and then improve our products and services.”

Meanwhile, there are more than 270 million mobile phone users in the United States and the number of smartphone users is expected to reach 1 billion by 2014. In the next five years shoppers are expected to spend approximately $119 billion on products and services purchased via mobile phones worldwide.

“With consumers becoming more dependent on their phones for researching, socializing, entertainment and spending, it is imperative to engage them on this platform,” said Faulkner. “More importantly, the simultaneous use of mobile technology and social media is increasingly blurring the line between different media making a unified strategy even more vital.”

The rise of mobile phone applications is revolutionary in itself, especially with the global market expected to catapult to $17.5 billion by 2012. Retailers have taken the cue and are rushing to develop apps that bring them close to their target market by offering useful tools to improve the quality and ease of the shopping experience, the report said.

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