Shopping malls have gone through quite the transformation since the first one opened in 1956.1
Consumers used to be driven to malls out of necessity. It was a one-stop shop for goods and services. In the 1990s, with the evolution of the “mallrat” culture, malls morphed into a social gathering spot for teens on the weekends. Then the Recession hit in 2008, and rather than hitting the malls, consumers began to scour the internet for the best deals possible. They quickly realized that the internet offered a larger selection than malls’ restricted space shelf allowed. Shopping malls have now realized that they must find a way to stay relevant, and what’s more relevant in today’s culture than social media?
An omnipresent feature in our lives
In 2017, 81 percent of Americans had at least one social media account, a five percent growth from the previous year.2
With reach like that, it’s no secret that social media is a powerful marketing tool for companies. More than 48 percent of Americans have interacted with companies on at least one social media network and at least 41 percent of Americans feel that it’s important that the companies they engage with have a strong social media presence.2 So, while many may think that the internet is kryptonite for shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores, it can actually be a useful tactic to help enhance the shopping mall experience. Yet, with so many social media platforms available for use, which ones are giving malls the biggest bang for their buck?
The Facebook effect
The market leader in social media is Facebook, with 1.65 billion monthly active users and 1.09 billion active daily users. And when it comes to time spent online, Facebook actually accounts for one in every six minutes. With those metrics, Facebook provides physical store locations the opportunity to market to multiple demographics using a variety of tactics. It allows shopping centers to invest their marketing budgets into increasing the reach and penetration of different event announcements, promotions, and guest engagements in an effort to increase foot traffic. Ultimately, the platform gives the ability to target key shopping groups, delivering the right message, to the right audience, at the right time.3
Facebook data also gives malls a better understanding of what consumers are looking for from brands. These days, it’s important for malls to recognize the type of retail mix that resonates with consumers. Facebook’s poll tool allows malls to interact with mallgoers and figure out what stores should be added to the mix to better fit demand and increase foot traffic. It’s about figuring out what they can offer shoppers that the internet can’t.
Creating Instagramable moments
Over the last decade, Instagram has grown a strong user base, consisting of more than 400 million active monthly users and the highest per follower engagement rate of any of the major social networks. This translates into major influential power over targeted audiences that can be identified through the use of hashtags and check-ins. As a result, more than 60 percent of Instagram users have stated that they’ve discovered new products on the platform and 75 percent of users say they’ve taken action after being inspired by a post.3
Unlike Facebook, Instagram is less about the promotion of a particular sale or brand, and more about promoting the experience. It’s about capturing the drip of an ice cream cone on a summer day at a specialty ice cream store, a behind-the-scenes look at an exclusive concert or event, or a colorful window display. Today’s consumers crave experiences and battle with extreme “FOMO” (fear of missing
out). Instagram helps malls paint the picture of a can’t-miss experience that’s unattainable from the comfort of your couch.
What the tweet?
Twitter has also become another powerful social media tool utilized by traditional shopping malls to increase foot traffic. Twitter has more than 310 million active monthly users. Of those users, 49 percent say they follow brands and companies, and 42 percent learn about new products and services via the platform. So where does Twitter fit into social media marketing for shopping centers? Unlike Facebook’s function to promote sales, and Instagram’s ability to highlight experiences, Twitter allows shopping malls to engage with the community. It’s being used as a tool to talk about local events and trends in an effort to ultimately get customers into physical store locations.3
Twitter is also evolving into a care and guest experience channel. It is being used for official announcements and personal communication with guests. Through the platform, shopping malls are able to gain valuable, first-hand information on how to improve the customer experience, and keep shoppers coming back for more.
Social media for future success
Traditional shopping malls understand that they need to stay relevant and compete with ecommerce. As a result, marketing professionals have been investing more time and money into online social platforms with the main goal of driving foot traffic and ultimately increasing sales. Going forward, social media will also be used to increase malls’ overall brand perception, curating content to signify that they’re places where people want to experience brands not just shop.