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University Town shopping center pilots mobile app to drive loyalty for retailers

Shopping center operator Inland Diversified Real Estate Services is piloting a mobile application designed to support University Town Center retailers by providing rich, interactive content and promotional offers.

The shopping center’s retailers, including Ulta Beauty, Converse and Great Clips, will benefit from the app by being able to enhance customer engagement as well as drive loyalty. The shopping center is located in Norman, OK, near the Oklahoma State University and University of Oklahoma campuses, and draws many tech-savvy shoppers from these campuses.

“We saw the University Town Center’s location near the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University campuses – combined with its diverse tenant mix – as an opportunity to develop a mobile app to draw in the approximately 102,000 residents within a five-mile radius, along with the additional 32,000 tech-savvy students and faculty members from the University of Oklahoma alone,” said Maureen Denard, vice president and director of marketing for Inland Diversified Real Estate Services LLC, Oak Brook, IL.

“The overall goal of the app is to promote the advantages of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores by enhancing customer engagement, retention and interaction with retailers,” she said.

“The app rewards customers that shop brick-and-mortar by providing a channel to redeem promotional offers, benefit from loyalty programs and engage directly with retailers by providing immediate feedback about their shopping experience.”

Built-in loyalty
Inland Diversified recognized that growing numbers of consumers are using smartphones to download apps, search for stores, compare prices and research products details, providing an opportunity for an app that can be used by consumers to engage with local retailers.

The mobile app features advanced tools that enhance the shopping experience and allow customers to engage directly with retailers on a recurring basis.

Features include a built-in loyalty system that rewards customers for shopping brick-and-mortar. App users are automatically enrolled in participating retailers’ loyalty programs and will receive special discounts and promotions via the app as well as a punch card that can be brought into stores for redemption.

Users will also receive personalized messages. After downloading the app, customers can save any business as a “favorite” in their personal account in order to receive personalized updates on new promotions and discounts.

Additionally, the app features include a customer feedback channel that will enable customers to send instant feedback on their shopping experience via text message directly to a store’s manager.

Retailer response
The app is being promoted via signs in retailers’ windows, on retail receipts and on the mall’s Facebook page. A QR code appears in these marketing outlets that can be scanned to download the app.

The new University Town Center mobile app is available on the iPhone and iPad and will be available on the Android, Blackberry and HTML 5 systems this summer 2012.

Inland plans to roll out the app to additional shopping centers this year.

“The University Town Center app is a pilot program that has already received positive consumer and retailer feedback,” Ms. Denard said. “Pending additional retailer and consumer feedback, we estimate that we will roll the app out to at least approximately 40 percent of the shopping centers that Inland Diversified Real Estate Services LLC manages within the next six months.

“We have found that the number of consumer downloads continues to increase daily, and the retailers’ have displayed consistent enthusiasm and support for the app,” she said. “The flexibility of the programs and the ability for retailers to have complete control over their promotional offers also has increased inquiries and interest from retailers who normally have been unable to participate in any previous traditional marketing initiatives.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York