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Taubman malls gear up for holiday shoppers with browser-based mobile app

Taubman Centers is partnering with an in-mall retail solution to deploy a browser-based application at four new shopping malls that relies on Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth technology, capitalizing on the 20 million offers viewed by customers within the StepsAway mobile application so far.

Several Taubman shopping centers, including Nashville’s The Mall at Green Hills, are hoping to ramp up holiday sales even more by implementing the StepsAway app into their infrastructure, contributing to a total integration in 40 malls across several different mall development properties by the end of the year. As consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones for snagging the best coupons and deals while shopping in-store, malls must engage in cross-partnerships with mobile retail solutions to cater to their clientele and maintain customer traffic.

“Based on the strong adoption we’ve seen for StepsAway since our launch a year ago, we are absolutely seeing the value in leveraging browser-based, hyperlocal shopping apps with timely, relevant offers,” said Allan Haims, president and CEO of StepsAway. “We went from six malls using StepsAway at our launch a year ago to expecting 40 malls to be deployed nationwide by the end of this year.

“Data suggests that very few shoppers download a mall specific app to their phone; however they will log onto a Wi-Fi network whereby they can easily view the particular mall’s promotions in their browser.”

Expanding mobile presence
StepsAway is providing Taubman shoppers with the ability to use its browser-based mobile app in a slew of new malls this holiday season. The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, FL, Westfarms in West Hartford, CT, The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, NJ and Nashville’s The Mall at Green Hills have all recently received the capability to offer the app to visitors.

The StepsAway app, which offers users time-sensitive mall deals and savings, initially launched a year ago and has nearly quadrupled its reach in malls since then. Consumers in shopping centers have viewed more than 20 million promotions within the app, proving mobile’s efficiency in enticing mall shoppers with local offers.

Guests do not need to download the application. Instead, they may sign onto their mall’s Wi-Fi network and access the StepsAway platform that way. This strategy has likely contributed to StepsAway’s appeal, as consumers do not have to relinquish prime smartphone real estate to make room for yet another shopping app.

“We’ve received a very positive response from both retailers and consumers,” Mr. Haims said. “StepsAway gives retailers a way to create and deploy their offers across multiple mall developers via a single platform, strategically influencing and targeting consumer behavior across multiple mall locations or regions.

“Also, because it is a browser-based app that runs on each mall’s free Wi-Fi network, shoppers don’t need to download anything to use it and it only contains relevant offers in that specific mall. Consumer usage has been strong and continues to rise, especially during holiday-focused or seasonally-driven times of year.”

A retailer’s available promotions are seen more than 15,000 times in each mall leveraging the StepsAway solution. Consumers no longer wait for coupon clippings to arrive in the mail; rather, they seek instant gratification when it comes to searching for discounts at the point of purchase.

StepsAway has also found that flash sales typically result in double-digit redemption rates, suggesting that more stores should employ time-sensitive promotions on mobile to strike a sense of urgency in shoppers.

Bridging bricks-and-mortar with mobile
StepsAway offers cloud-based technology to enable mall retailers to create and send out deals across several properties. Customers visiting a Taubman Centers mall can sign on to the Wi-Fi network and search promotions via the StepsAway’s SAMobile app by looking up store name or product category.

The app can be accessed on any Android, Apple or Windows device.

“With 94 percent of sales still being completed via bricks-and-mortar, in-store deals are clearly very important to consumers,” Mr. Haims said. “Mobile shoppers who are using in-mall shopping apps are looking for a digital handout of all offers in the mall – being able to access the info on their smartphone saves them time and eases their decision-making process.

“For this reason, retailers that use in-mall shopping apps have an edge with a captive audience that is ready to buy – they can use this opportunity to publish mall-only deals, flash sales and other unique offers and events that help keep shoppers’ wallet share in the mall. Content management platforms that deliver promotions to mobile devices allow retailers to execute strategies dynamically and with the greatest amount of flexibility.”

Shopping centers that have not yet integrated mobile into their business models will be at a severe disadvantage among consumers, especially those searching for the best bargains this holiday season.

Several months ago, mobile coupon application RetailMeNot partnered with Swirl to create in-store beacon-powered promotions as well as implement features and deals that take place while the consumer is shopping, following results indicating higher mobile and in-store usage (see story).

“With consumer smartphone usage at an all-time high, malls and shopping centers that lack mobile engagement tools are missing out on an untapped opportunity to drive more bricks-and-mortar sales and influence shopper behavior,” Mr. Haims said. “Retailers want to attract more traffic into their stores and mobile plays a key role in giving them the tools to do so with a powerful incentive.

“Consumers are using their smartphones for many things while shopping, e.g., email, Facebook, looking for sales, so mall marketers and retailers have an opportunity that is targeted, timely and relevant to directly influence them.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York