Using quality content to create a community reward program in shopping malls
Throughout North America, the UK, Europe, and Australia, the last few years have been plagued by what analysts call the “Retail Apocalypse.” Major brands who were once behemoths in their respective sectors are now closing stores by the hundreds, while others are filing for bankruptcy faster than you can say “Amazon!”
To keep people from abandoning brick and mortar stores, deep-pocketed developers have invested millions designing shopping malls that are as much an entertainment and recreation center as they are a collection of shops and restaurants.
The West Edmonton Shopping mall in Alberta, Canada is a good example. To lure people in, and keep them there as long as possible (so they can entice them to spend money), the mall offers visitors a massive tropical water park with the world’s largest indoor wave pool, a full-size pirate ship, and an ice palace all under one roof.
It’s definitely an enticement to go the mall even when you're not planning to buy anything (which you likely will if the mall markets to you effectively), but not every developer can afford that kind of investment.
Which is why the use of loyalty and reward programs in the retail sector has never been stronger. Today, the average consumer is enrolled in 14 programs, including:
• Point-based (e.g. Starbucks)
• Lifestyle programs (e.g. Home Depot Pro Xtra)
• Tier-based (e.g. Sephora)
• Coalition programs offer benefits to customers from multiple businesses in exchange for allowing those businesses to collect user data. (e.g. Air Miles/Travel Club)
Lately we’re seeing more Community Rewards Programs (CRP) pop up where businesses in specific neighborhoods pool their resources to reward customers for their continued patronage.
CRP can be online (e.g. smile.amazon.com which donates a small percentage of a purchase to a consumer’s chosen charity) or offline (e.g. Office Depot’s donation of free school supplies when buyers of qualifying products show their school ID at checkout).
In the shopping mall space, Simon Premium Outlets worldwide have a free online VIP program that offers exclusive deals and discounts at member stores to encourage consumers to come back and, “Shop ‘til you drop!”
But with all the online discounts and promotions Amazon offers around the clock, it’s hard to compete for eyeballs when they're often glued to phones where promotions take up a good part of the real estate.
So one shopping mall down under tried something a bit different. It put together a promotion to increase WiFi usage in the mall. Why? Because it believed that the more people used the free WiFi...
• The longer they would stay in the mall, giving retailers more opportunities to capture their attention and wallets
• The more direct the relationships could be made between the mall/stores and the shoppers
• The better the insights into consumer behavior
To sweeten the pot and encourage connection, the property offered onsite visitors something Amazon couldn’t give them: sponsored access to PressReader.
When shoppers entered the mall they were immediately able to connect, search, and download their choice of thousands of the world’s best newspapers and magazines on their own devices — content that normally fetched a premium price in the app stores.
The shopping center management:
• Targeted shoppers with in-mall posters
• Tapped into specific customer wants, needs, and feelings
• Tied PressReader to the shopping behaviors by emphasizing trends in magazine topics
In the first month, WiFi connections increased by 17%, with 20% of connected shoppers using PressReader to access content. That 20% grew to 36% over the next two months.
The stickiness of the PressReader app and the wealth of high quality journalism it offered kept shoppers entertained and engaged longer and in the mall.
The experiment was the first of its kind in a shopping mall and taught some valuable lessons to the property management about the benefits of content in a Community Reward Program.
Some analysts believe that the retail apocalypse narrative is overhyped, predicting that physical stores and malls will always have a place in society. I hope that is true, but many casualties of the war for wallets are inevitable as retail spending continues to move online.
An argument made was that people like to touch and feel things before buying them and stores are perfect for that. Which is true to a point, but when one looks at Amazon’s “try before you buy” Prime Wardrobe offer to its 100 million members, is the brick-and-mortar tactile differentiator something stores can count on in the future? I think not.
So, as the retail sector faces increased cannibalization from the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, shopping centers and traditional retailers must look for more innovative ways to encourage shoppers to keep coming back to malls and shopping districts.
Discounts are short-term tactics with short-term results, but in the long term, trying to compete with the online retail giants on price is just a race to bankruptcy.
Instead, think of ways to give shoppers what they can’t get from the digital competition — something that engages, entertains, and encourages repeat visits. Give them something they can’t refuse. If you’d like to know more about how PressReader can help your business, let’s talk!