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Mall of America exec: App download makes QR codes a challenge

Please click here to access the archived webinar

A Mall of America executive who spoke yesterday during a Mobile Marketer webinar said that although the company has tested QR codes, they have not been successful yet since the technology forces consumers to download an application first.

During the ?5 Last-Minute Tips for Effective 2012 Mobile Marketing? webinar, executives from Mall of America, Fiksu and BFG spoke about how mobile will be used by retailers and brands this holiday season. The webinar was moderated by Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily and Luxury Daily, New York.

?QR codes have not been a huge success for us, and we have tried them in several capacities,? said Jill Renslow, vice president of business development and marketing at Mall of America, Bloomington, MN.

?Up until now QR codes have not been built into mobile phones,? she said. ?Having guests take an extra step of downloading has been a bit of a block.?

?However, I?m interested in how Target is doing it with holiday toy snapping.?

Mobile malls
According to Ms. Renslow, QR codes are all about the experience. The mobile bar code has to give users an added value for snapping.

This year, consumers have higher expectations about their mobile experiences. With many channels available to consumers though, it is important to deliver compatible information across the many platforms.

Mall of America?s primary goal with mobile is to drive foot traffic.

?The experience needs to be dynamic and consistent for branding,? Ms. Renslow said. ?Looking across channels, an integrated approach is so important.? 

When it comes to showrooming, marketers should use it as a way to drive new tactics in the retail space, per the Mall of America executive. For example, retailers can use mobile coupons to deliver relevant, location-based content.

Mall of America is in the middle of rolling out a new infrastructure, which includes a redesigned mobile site and blog.

Additionally, the company has a mobile app with similar features that mimic information on the company?s Web site.

Mall of America also has a SMS program that the company uses for guest relations purposes. With its wide reach across all mobile devices, the medium is a way that Mall of America can respond to feedback quickly from consumers.

Loyalty and rewards programs such as Apple?s Passbook and shopkick will be important technologies to watch this holiday season.

As retailers get ready to gear up for the holiday season, preparation is critical. Ms. Renslow said that Mall of America had some capacity problems last year, and is working with its IT department to communicate any problems this year.

Having a damage control system in place ? such as social media ? is the most important part for retailers to prepare for the flood of upcoming holiday traffic.

Mall of America has about 520 retailers, meaning that it is important for everyone to get on the same page about mobile initiatives. Therefore, the company tries to make sure that marketing rolls from corporate levels to stores.

Of the companies retailers, approximately 20-30 percent use mobile in a leading-edge way. These brands include Macy?s and American Eagle Outfitters.

When it comes to mobile payments, there is not one uniform platform that consumers feel comfortable with.

Geo-location in a mall can be difficult, but Ms. Renslow said that the company is looking at solutions that all of the company's retailers can adopt one system that lets users check-in once. One central hub of check-ins could help educate consumers on how to use mobile check-ins.

Wrong approach
According to Sloane Kelley, interactive strategy director at BFG Communications, Bluffton, SC, too many brands approach digital from only a desktop view. Although PC is important, mobile requires a different mindset and increasingly needs to be thought of in a primary medium with a strategic approach.

Additionally, QR codes are easy to mess up, according to the BFG Communications executive.

?Use them right or get rid of them altogether,? Ms. Kelley said.

?There are so many pages out there that are not optimized, and it is a big problem,? she said.

One of the challenges this year for brands will be keeping up with consumers online during the key days of the holidays. For instance, after consumers spend time with friends and family on Christmas Day, they often browse social media networks, which opens up big opportunities for marketers.

Apple?s new iPad mini could also be a game changer for brands that sell products online with its lower price point and smaller size.

Although geofencing technology is interesting for retailers, Ms. Kelley said that she believes that it is an area used primarily for testing right now.

If retailers want to use a location-based campaign this holiday season such as foursquare, it is important for brands to educate their staffs on exactly how the technology works.

For retailers looking to drive gift card sales this year, capturing a consumer?s phone number to opt-in to SMS programs is crucial to building a longer-term relationship with consumers, per Ms. Kelley.

Ms. Kelley also said that mobile POS and window displays to let consumers shop from outside a store will be important for retailers this season.

Clear message
Although it is important for retailers to use mobile as part of their holiday marketing, it needs to be used within reason, said Jim Thomas, product marketing manager at Fiksu, Boston. Fiksu sponsored the webinar.

?One of the tendencies is to spam users during the holidays ? think through carefully how you communicate with users,? Mr. Thomas said.

For example, push notifications can be intrusive if used incorrectly. As an alternative to push notifications, email is a great way to keep a brand top of mind for app users.

Additionally, it is critical to test mobile initiatives during the holidays. In particular, gaming can be a big area to test with consumers downloading and experimenting many games during the peak times of the holidays.

From a customer engagement side, it is important to view how mobile can be not only used during the holidays but how it can be used to build new long-term relationships with consumers.

Similar to all initiatives, it is important to use mobile as part of a multichannel strategy.

?Mobile is something that is simply another channel, and we need to recognize that it is only part of a marketing strategy,? Mr. Thomas said.

?The main thing is testing the experiences in different environments to make sure that they work everywhere,? he said.

Please click here to access the archived webinar

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York