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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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