StepsAway expands mobile messaging in malls

The number of solutions and efforts by shopping mall operators to leverage mobile for retail tenants is increasing at a rapid clip. And now a new solution promises to send shoppers messages through a third party app from retailers in mall locations.

Express, Sephora, Art of Shaving and All Things Remembered have signed on to use StepsAway, an app that delivers hyper local, timed messages to shoppers literally steps away in the mall. Steps Away is operational at 10 malls in the United States.

StepsAway is a cloud-based platform that lets retailers create and deliver promotions across multiple properties. The tool supports dynamic promotions and lets retailers make real-time adjustments based on inventory levels and sales trends, according to the company.

Shoppers can use a mall's Wi-Fi network and search for deals on the StepsAway App. The platform is currently enabled at six shopping centers in the United States. Unlike beacon networks, StepsAway requires shoppers to actively engage with the app.

Malls are searching for digital tools to help connect mobile shoppers to the physical location and woo millennials. Simon Property Group recently partnered with Refinery 29 to launch pop-up mini-marketplaces in six of its malls. The program is designed to link the digital, Refinery29's popular website, with the physical.

"The idea of competition between physical and digital is a misnomer," Chidi Achara told Woman's Wear Daily. "It overlooks the reality of modern shopping behavior. People use both channels at different times for different purposes. Even the millennial shopper still prefers the physical, tactile experience of looking at clothes, trying on clothes and showing what they're buying to friends. The two channels fuel each other."

And while beacons are a big focus or topic for some mall operators—Simon is creating more than 200 "smart malls" with Mobiquity's iBeacon network—some retailers aren't convinced.

"We're [a bit] contrarian," Brian Wilson, director of product management for Westfield told attendees at the Mobile Shopping Summit in Litchfield Park, Arizona Oct. 7. Westfield malls are more focused on empowering concierges with digital tools to instantly chat with shoppers or use indoor locators to provide assistance. Westfield is also building out its own platform to house and distribute digital content. "We want to put it all in one place so people can shop online at home and then know it's at the mall," said Wilson. "To create a true connection between digital and online."
 
"Beacons will open up a lot of analytics potential for the retailers and mall [operators], but that's just a piece of the puzzle," he said. "Knowing what someone does inside a mall really doesn't help you much."

For more:
-See this Steps Away announcement

Related stories:
Mannequins in UK using beacon technology to communicate with shoppers
Lord & Taylor pushes mystery coupons to mobile phones
Facebook introduces cross-device tool that sheds light on when customers convert
How Foot Locker is using mobile to reach millennials
Simon to add beacons at 200 malls

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