Mall of America makes mobile marketing more human
The Bloomington, MN-based retail and entertainment complex hosts a social media command center where a team of eight part-time staffers respond in real time to social media posts and to text-based messages. The strategy is part of Mall of America’s Enhanced Service Portal, or ESP, which takes a light-hearted approach to social media but is serious about driving business to its tenants.
“It’s all about using technology to communicate from a human perspective,” said Jill Renslow, vice president of business development and marketing at Mall of America.
Ms. Renslow spoke Monday at the Social Media, Social Commerce & Engagement Summit at eTail East 2014 in Philadelphia. Coincidentally, the date was also the 22nd anniversary of the Mall of America, where Ms. Renslow has worked for the last 17 years.
The Mall of America employs several different technologies to engage with customers and potential customers through social media.
Ms. Renslow described three “pillars” upon which its social media strategy is built: listening, connecting and engaging.
“You have to be a good listener,” she said. “You don’t just ‘hear.’ You really have to listen to what people are saying.”
Mall of America conducts extensive training for its social media specialists so that they listen to customers and respond using the brand’s voice.
In terms of engaging, Ms. Renslow suggested reaching out to certain customers on a different platform than the one they used to connect initially, such as via email or phone, for example.
She suggested marketers keep an eye out in particular for key influencers, which are those people who are helping promote the brand on social media. They can contribute significantly in the form of recommendations.
“Those influencers are important for you to build upon,” she said. “Make them feel special, and let them know that are really bringing value to the brand.”
She suggested keeping them supplied with exclusive content, and even offering small rewards in the form of merchandise.
One aspect of Mall of America’s mobile-communications strategy involves a text-messaging service that allows customers inside the mall to ask questions about locating stores or other information. Mall of America had 6,600 such text conversations during July, and had an average response time of less than two minutes per text.
Mall of America also uses its mobile app to aid customers in parking. Shoppers can find out where parking is available and get a recommendation on the best entrance to use based on availability.
In addition, the mall partners in social media campaigns with local sports teams, with celebrities who make appearances at the site, and with retailers and brands found within its massive site.
Such social media posts are often fun and whimsical, but are also all about driving traffic to the stores and other businesses in the mall.
“We need to really convert this to ROI,” Ms. Renslow, said, using the acronym for return on investment. “We’re not doing this just to have fun.”
Triple Five Holdings, the parent company of Mall of America, now is taking many of the best practices from Mall of America and rolling them out at its other property, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada.
While the approach at the West Edmonton Mall might differ somewhat from that at Mall of America, the same principles of active listening, connecting and engaging in a personable way will still apply.
“You need to show that you are human in your communications,” Ms. Renslow said. “Business is built on relationships.”
Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York