When shoppers with smartphones can access virtually any retail store they want from their homes, offices, or schools, getting them to visit brick-and-mortar stores is more challenging, as every retailer knows. Getting them to drive farther, deal with parking challenges, and schlep through a mall may be even more difficult, leading to various predictions of the demise of the mall. (Also see “What’s Different About Tomorrow’s Mall? You Never Have to Leave” in the June 2014 newsletter)”
But the Mall of America, the world’s largest mall and a massive attraction that brings tourists from all over to Minnesota, doesn’t appear too worried. Even in the face of a massive snowstorm, marked by temperatures of 40° below zero, the Mall of America was able to convince approximately 100,000 shoppers to brave terrible road conditions and get to the shops, simply by offering free passes to its famous theme park and the associated rides.
This offer went out through social media, a resource that the Mall of America leverages constantly and to good effect. For example, when Twitter exploded with news that a popular band would be visiting one of its stores, mall management recognized that the influx of fans would be more than the individual store could handle. It quickly transformed a vacant space into a meet-and-greet site, then tweeted the location in the mall where fans could find their adored boy band, thus avoiding potential conflicts or overcrowding.
Such moves are part of the Mall of America’s overall strategy to supply an “Enhanced Service Portal,” or ESP. When shoppers allow the mall to access their locations, employees can provide valuable information, including reminders of where they parked, maps to preferred stores, or the location of the nearest nursing station for new moms. In one incident, a linked shopper contacted customer service to report that she had misplaced a gift card; when mall employees learned her location, they hurried over with a replacement and thus earned a customer for life.
Other ESP employees walking the mall offer enhanced services, provided through their handheld devices. For example, they can help shoppers make restaurant reservations, hours before they even get to the wing of the mall that houses the restaurant. A planned expansion will allow out-of-town tourists to check their luggage for a few hours so that they can shop while waiting to take a shuttle to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, which is less than 2 miles away.
How is Mall of America using social media to attract customers?
Source: Sandy Smith, Stores, June 2014