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Mall of America knows what shoppers are saying

BY Dan Berthiaume

Bloomington, Minn. – Malls have long been physical spots for consumers to socialize, and Mall of America is trying to extend that social aspect into the digital space. The 500-plus-store, nearly five million-sq.-ft. shopping center is using the Geofeedia location-based social media monitoring platform to actively engage customers and gain better understanding of what they are discussing and doing while visiting the mall.

“We get unsolicited feedback from customers who go online and talk about our brand,” said Erin Vande Steeg, social media senior communications strategist of Mall of America. “It’s our decision if we want to take part in the conversation.”

Geofeedia initially approached Mall of America about using its platform in late 2013. The mall already had a presence on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also used a Spredfast CRM platform to manage activities such as monitoring social keywords and managing outbound social content. However, Mall of America lacked the type of real-time insight into live shoppers offered by Geofeedia.

“All we had to socially track who was in the mall was FourSquare check-ins,” said Vande Steeg.

Mall of America uses Geofeedia’s geo-fencing capability to create a virtual perimeter around the mall, tracking the social activities of consumers who have turned on location-based services on their smartphones. The platform works on a remotely hosted basis and requires no direct integration to any of the mall’s other systems, although Mall of America does manually link Geofeedia data to its Spredfast platform.

“We use Geofeedia to live up to the mall’s mottos of ‘make somebody happy today’ and ‘surprise and delight,’” stated Vande Steeg. “If someone tweets they are celebrating their anniversary, we might tweets back we have a surprise for them and then have an employee present them with a gift card.”

Geofeedia also helps Mall of America monitor real-time customer complaints to identify and resolve issues that are negatively impacting the shopping experience. The mall even uses social commentary to detect and respond to potential security issues, including commentary from consumers who may be planning to cause trouble.

“Some people post content they don’t expect us to see,” said Vande Steeg.

Other uses Mall of America has for Geofeedia include identifying celebrities in the mall, including ones who are not actively announcing their presence.

“A lot of celebrities come to the mall and might tweet a photo of themselves but not tag it or share their location,” said Vande Steeg. “We can see who in the mall is using handles with a large number of followers and identify them. If it’s a celebrity we can alert security to take extra precautions or even connect to them with special offers that also improve our branding.”

Vande Steeg said benefits of the platform include shoppers staying in the mall longer and learning of different options once they are engaged via Geofeedia. Future plans include directly integrating Geofeedia with the Spredfast platform, as well as with email and social media marketing systems.

“We want to create more robust user profiles,” said Vande Steeg. “We’re still molding and adjusting how we use the platform.”

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Tech Guest Viewpoint: Is Your Cloud App ‘Saas-querading’?

BY John Orr, Ceridian

While Mardi Gras celebrations ended earlier this spring, there are many software vendors that still have the Mardi Gras masks on as they pretend their cloud apps are SaaS – they are “SaaSquerading”(phrase coined by blogger Brian Sommer). There is a distinct difference between cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) and it’s important for professionals to know why the difference matters.

SaaS is a comprehensive, full-blown application that does not require any additional components or administration and does not sit on your machines. Furthermore, the application is not running on servers and using data storage in your data center; it is running in the vendor's data center or hosting facility.

The way SaaS applications are licensed is different from on premise applications. Instead of buying the license to use the application, and then paying for software maintenance to support it and keep it current, you "rent" the software over a period of time – usually monthly or yearly. The SaaS vendor runs the application on their infrastructure so you don’t buy and install the infrastructure and then pay ongoing operating and maintenance costs. The cost of the SaaS application covers the costs of the software itself and the ongoing operations and infrastructure costs.

When you run a SaaS application, you generally log into your vendor's website and you are on. You can say that SaaS applications are running "in the cloud," and you would be correct. But SaaS applications are not the cloud.

So what is "the cloud?" Cloud computing provides computing resources that are not tied to any specific location. Cloud computing basically consists of virtual computers/servers, data storage capacity, communications, messaging capacity, network capacity, and development environments.

In other words, cloud computing is for software developers, legacy application vendors, savvy computer users, and corporate IT departments, not for people who use computer applications.

Cloud-based or cloud computing approaches by legacy providers (SaaSqueraders) are typically first generation Web designed so they can have eight or more layers that create numerous issues.


John Orr is senior VP of retail strategy and execution, Ceridian.

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It’s the season to put your game on at GameStop

BY CSA STAFF

GameStop is kicking off summer in a big way with a five-week Twitter contest aimed at increasing customer engagement.

The contest, called #SummerAtGameStop, is a five-week contest series designed for gamers to share their personal stories on how video gaming brings fans together to create unique friendships and lifelong relationships. The program encompasses five themed weeks: Never Met, Romance, Reunited, Game Night, and Rematch.

“Gaming is one those rare forces that can bring people together, from across the room to across the globe,” said Frank Hamlin, chief marketing officer, GameStop. “If you think back to family game nights or rounding up friends to be the first to play the latest mega title, there are so many excellent memories. We want to be able to offer gamers a way to bring those back to life, make new connections, and maybe win some great prizes in the process.”

Gamers can share their favorite gaming story related to the theme of each week for a chance to win epic gaming experiences and gear. From now until 11:59 p.m. CDT on July 27, gamers can easily tweet or post their photos on Instagram, being sure to use the hashtags #SummerAtGameStop and #contest when telling their stories about the greatness of gaming together.

Here's a breakdown of the GameStop promotion:

Week 1: Never Met (Monday, June 22nd – Sunday, June 28th) You’ve gamed together. You’re practically best friends. But you’ve never actually met face-to-face. Tell us why you want to meet them and what makes them a great friend for a chance to meet them in real life and have the ultimate gaming weekend.

Week 2: Romance (Monday, June 29th – Sunday, July 5th) The couple that plays together stays together. Whether you are in a long-distance relationship or enjoy couch co-op with your Player 2, we want to hear your story. Share your story about the gaming friend you fell in love with. Go ahead, be a little embarrassing, and you could score a gaming getaway for two!

Week 3: Reunited (Monday, July 6th – Sunday, July 12th) We all have gaming friends from our past. Maybe your crew dominated the dorm in Halo or you grew up gaming with a friend who is now far away. Tell us who in your gaming crew you want to stay connected with and why for a chance to receive an XboxOne or PlayStation4 gaming bundle for four so you can get back to making gaming memories.

Week 4: Game Night (Monday, July 13th – Sunday, July 19th) Game night is always epic at your house. But what makes yours unique? Where do you meet up? Who shows? What games do you play? Tell us and you could end up with a game room makeover to host your next get together.

Week 5: Rematch (Monday, July 20th – Sunday, July 26th) There’s always one: Your gaming nemesis. That one person you could never consistently beat. If your nemesis is the biggest and baddest, you could win one-on-one training with a professional gamer and a chance to put your gaming nemesis in their place.

Texas-based GameStop operates more than 6,600 stores across 14 countries.

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