Mall-to-Mobile …

Over the last two years I have helped to develop a unique product for the UK’s shopping centre industry – Mall-to-Mobile.

Having worked with shopping destinations for more than 20 years, I have seen most things. In particular, I have seen how shopping centre marketing has changed.

The work through 2012 was to realise what would have been a dream in the early 1990s … to create a way of communicating with shoppers, seven days-a-week, 365 days of the year. That, I am pleased to say, is now a reality and is helping clients to best communicate with shoppers as well as providing an online ‘shop window’ for retailers at destinations adopting the unique ‘Mall-to-Mobile’ service.

Job done? Well, sadly … no.

Some enlightened shopping centres and centre owners/developers ‘get it’. They understand that times have moved on and, in order to interact with shoppers, you need to use the channels that shoppers dictate. However, the vast majority still have their heads stuck in the sand.

So what next?

Working with colleagues at DestinationCMS (www.destinationCMS.co.uk), we have spent the last few weeks undertaking a complete digital and social media review of the major shopping centre portfolios in the UK. These will be shared individually – and at a centre-by-centre level – over the coming days.

Our findings?

That ‘vast majority’ are simply ignoring digital and social media opportunities – as well as managing both badly. In some cases, mis-managing to the detriment of their Centres, retailers and shoppers.

Our investigations have unearthed websites that do not work correctly, websites that carry information that is out of date … and a lack of understanding over what is required in terms of mobile provision. ‘Responsive’ web design is now fundamental as 50% of traffic comes from hand-held devices. Yet few have sites that are even ‘enabled’ for mobile, let alone designed with that in mind. We have found those who have even launched sites recently that are unable to work on mobile platforms. Astonishing.

And when it comes to social media, so many have almost zero understanding of what is going on. Shoppers are deserting traditional shopping destinations. If those Centres fail to communicate via the channels that shoppers choose, and at the times that shoppers want, should anyone be surprised?

As mentioned, those shopping centres are all about to receive information to show them their mistakes – measuring website delivery, online & social media, retailer support, social media delivery and supporting comms … all measured against what they would receive/achieve via ‘Mall-to-Mobile’.

Day-in, day-out, I speak with people in the shopping centre industry who just fail to see the need, let alone the urgency. Those clients that have adopted ‘M2M’ now have all of their digital, social media and PR services wrapped up in one contract, with one company – delivering communication seven days-a-week. And that includes daily conversation and interaction with shoppers online, via Facebook & Twitter (as well as the management of the Centre’s Pinterest account). It is a complete service that takes no client time/staffing.

The content is bespoke, guarantees each and every retailer features every month – and also throws the net wider to engage with the catchment/community.

The results?

Here’s the views of a couple of Centre Managers who have adopted M2M:

Pete Barber, Centre Manager at Mill Gate Shopping Centre in Bury, is convinced by Mall-to-Mobile’s delivery, explaining: “We live in an ever-changing world where retailers in the traditional high streets and shopping centres are under increasing pressure to deliver more and more.”  Pete adds: “There has been a great deal of publicity recently highlighting the unfair competition between town centre retailers versus those online stores that are often based outside the UK, create very few jobs at home and contribute almost nothing to our communities or economy.” Pete says: “We launched Mall-to-Mobile to help – to provide our shoppers with daily information via a new mobile-friendly website as well as through social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.”

Mill Gate has its own ‘brand maker’ (provided as part of the M2M service) who visits each and every retailer every week – capturing information on new lines, special offers and anything the stores want to promote. All information is loaded to the shopping centre website’s content management system – again, provided as part of the Mall-to-Mobile service – and a team of PR specialists (again, included) add their spin before all is posted live and shared online. Mill Gate’s management team also has access, to the same system – enabling them to post content and communicate with shoppers in ‘real time’.

Pete Barber says: “Over the last six months, we have seen a steady increase in our website traffic and significant rises in those being reached by social media posts. We don’t add ‘likes-for-likes’ sake as many centres do. Shoppers who choose to follow us on social media networks do so because they are genuinely interested in what we and our retailers have to offer. We are not ‘buying’ them with competition prizes only to see them disappear.”

Another Mall-to-Mobile convert is Elmsleigh Shopping Centre in Staines. Gary Little, Centre Manager at Elmsleigh, explains: “I have worked in shopping centre management for many years. Mall-to-Mobile has completely changed the way we market ourselves and our retailers to the catchment. We’re promoting what we do every day – including working more closely with community partners – listening to our shoppers and responding directly to their comments and questions, seven days-a-week.”

Mall-to-Mobile is the only joined-up digital, social media & pr service available in the shopping centre industry. More than a dozen destinations across the UK have now run the service for more than 6 months. A roll-out across the UK – and beyond – will follow, for the benefit of shopping centres, retailers and shoppers.

I will keep all posted.

Finally …  I will be running a series of free webinars for those in the retail and shopping centre industry, focusing on digital, social media and pr delivery: What Shoppers Want – Wednesday 13th March, What Retailers Need – Wednesday 20th March, culminating in Total Engagement for Shopping Destinations on Wednesday 27th March. All webinars run at 11am on the given dates. Visit www.centreperks.co.uk to register. Places are limited.