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GGP exec: 18pc of app users engage with it every day

New York – An executive with General Growth Properties speaking at the MCommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2012 conference yesterday said that mobile is helping the mall operator build a relationship with shoppers and, as a result, helping to drive sales and traffic for its retail tenants.

During the session General Growth Properties: How the Nation’s No. 2 Mall Owner Uses Mobile to Drive Incremental Sales and Traffic to Retail Stores, the executive pointed to its smartphone app as an example of how it is leveraging mobile. The app includes a game that gives users a chance to win a prize and which 18 percent of users play every day.

“We have fully jumped into mobile,” said Jeffrey M. Cloud, director of digital marketing, email and mobile at General Growth Properties, Chicago.

“Our app came out a year and a half after the SMS but we’ve had three times the number who have downloaded the app than have tried the SMS program,” he said.

“With the app, they can get the information whenever they want it.”

Try, try again
GGP has 135 shopping centers across the country and is the second-largest owner of shopping centers in the United States.

The Club is GGP’s affinity marketing program targeted to the shopping centers’ core customer, which women between the ages of 25 and 54. Shoppers sign up to receive email messages and text messages related to a specific mall as well as to download The Club app.

While the company started testing mobile in 2008, initial results were poor.

However, the company continued to investigating mobile and was soon ready to try again after executives started noticing that shoppers were walking around the malls highly engaged with their mobile phones.

The mall operator is now looking at various ways that it can interact with shoppers when they come into the mall.

In 2009, GGP launched SMS messaging capabilities for The Club and followed with apps for the iPhone and Android in 2010.

The mall operator promotes The Club on its Web site, including with a field where users can sign up to receive text messages that was added in 2011.

Compared with its earlier efforts when just three percent of shoppers said they wanted to receive SMS text messages from the company, by 2011 that number had increased to 18 percent.

Additionally, in the first quarter of 2012, 24 percent of those who are signing up for email are also signing up for text messaging.

“Those who are subscribing to receive text messages are even better shoppers than those signing up for The Club email,” Mr. Cloud said. “They have an email open rate that is two times higher, click rate that is three times higher and an unsubscribe rate that is 50 percent lower than those who do not sign up for mobile.”

Return visits
Once shoppers sign up to receive email from the company, they receive a messaging thanking them for joining and offering them a gift with purchase.

This is followed up with a second message reminding them about the SMS program. This email has an 11 percent click-through rate.

For those who initially signed up for SMS, the second email message plugs the company’s mobile apps as a way to take full advantage of The Club. That email has a 14 percent click through rate.

The SMS messages are designed to be timely and have a sense of urgency. For example, they might promote a lunch sale that a specific retailer is having.

GGP has learned that 75 percent of those who have downloaded the app say they are using it at home, 37 percent are using once a week. Already frequent visitors to the mall, 58 percent report an incremental visit as a direct result of using the app.

The company is also using signs around the mall to encourage shoppers to sign up to receive text messages and download the app.

The app includes information about sales and events, a directory of stores available at that property, dining locations and information about the mall.

There is also a Play-A-Day game in the app that gives users a chance to win a $50 gift card every day. The game format is switched up and has included a scratch to win, a shakable snow globe and a slot machine.

GGP reports that 18 percent of app users play the game every day.

The company is also looking at other ways to use mobile. Between Dec. 2011 and Feb. 2012, it ran a geo-fending pilot that saw 840 people opt-in to receive information and special offers when they were near the mall.

The results were strong, with 83 percent of those who received an offer coming in and redeeming it.

The results also showed that 69 percent of messages where delivered on Thursdays and Fridays in morning and midday.

GGP also recently started a pilot with PlacePunch to leverage Facebook and foursquare. Customers who check in three times in a month will receive a gift card.

Also showing strong results is the use of QR codes. GGP tested signs on doors in the mall urging shoppers to scan a QR code or text a keyword to a short code to find out what was on sale that day. Five times the number of shoppers scanned the QR code than texted.

GGP is also seeing four times as many shoppers scan a QR code over texting to get a link to a mall map on their smartphone. The map is GPS enabled so it recognizes where users are, helps them navigate the mall and points out any sales.

Other ways GGP is trying to use mobile to leverage traffic is with signs encouraging shoppers to text-in to get an offer from a specific retailer. This promotion is seeing conversion rate between 30 percent and 70 percent.

“As customers are shopping, they are researching prices, products, getting recommendations from their friends and taking an action as a result of that,” Mr. Cloud said. “I believe that if we provide a conduit to this, mobile is going to blur the line between online and offline shopping.”

Final Take
Jeffrey Cloud is director of digital marketing, email and mobile at General Growth Properties, Chicago