The giant shopping mall adopts a sophisticated social media platform to better engage visitors and boost sales.
Engaging shoppers and delivering value is at the center of successful retailing. But in today's world, smartphones and social media add both challenges and opportunities. One organization that understands this concept well is Mall of America (MOA), the Bloomington, Minn., shopping complex that measures nearly 2.5 million square feet and features more than 520 stores. The shopping center and entertainment complex tallies approximately 42 million visitors per year.
MOA has about a half million followers on various social media channels. "It is extremely important to actively monitor all these channels at all times," said Erin Vande Steeg, senior social media and communications strategist. "In the past, our communications strategies and social media management responsibilities were very siloed. As a result, you never knew when you would receive a response after you called, e-mailed or posted something. In some cases, a guest would register a complaint on a Friday and no one would see it and respond until Monday."
In 2013, the mall launched a new communication command center along with an enhanced service portal (ESP). The goal? Consolidate functions and ensure that guest communication takes place in the most efficient manner possible. In addition, MOA turned to Geofeedia to provide location-based social media monitoring, intelligence and analysis. Using the system, MOA is able to respond more quickly and effectively to social media posts within the mall as well as outside of it. As Vande Steeg puts it: "We are able to have a more authentic relationship with guests by connecting with them in more meaningful ways."
The Geofeedia system allows MOA to draw a perimeter around a location and view relevant posts based on keywords. This could include the Twin Cities area, the airport or a portion of the mall. If a visitor has location-based services turned on, the mall can also see that a person is on the property. "This allows us to customize engagement and interact with guests in a more personal way, including making recommendations and using surprise-and-delight tactics," she said. For example, if a person posts a picture celebrating a birthday or anniversary at the mall, the team might send a congratulatory message along with a request to visit the service desk, where he or she might receive a gift basket or gift card.
The system is also valuable for security purposes, Vande Steeg noted. The team receives between 15 and 25 notifications per month that require further investigation, including celebrity appearances and people barred from the property. It has identified shoplifters by using the system to analyze social media posts and, a couple of years ago, identified participants in a fight that occurred in one of the mall's stores by analyzing Geofeedia data about YouTube posts. The participants were later arrested.
MOA is now looking for additional ways to use the technology, Vande Steeg said. It recently installed a more robust wifi network and it is looking into beacons and other tools that would allow the mall and visitors to further interact through a mobile app and in social media.
"We have adopted an innovative and cutting-edge approach that allows us to connect with guests in far more effective ways. This has become a very important part of the way we do business," she said.