What a difference a year makes.
Last year, shopping malls were considered cutting-edge if they used e-mail blasts and updated their websites with holiday events.
Today those tactics are old- school. In their place, several local malls are turning to digital tools like smart-phone apps, social networking sites and text-messaging programs to escalate their marketing efforts.
"It's easier and cheaper and more effective to go where the shoppers are - mobile text, mobile web," said Patrick Flanagan, vice president of digital strategy for Simon Brand Ventures, an arm of national mall owner Simon Property Group. "Using those tools and going to where the shopper is is a more natural fit at this time."
As malls have ramped up their use of social networking sites, they're breaking through the one-sided communication that typifies traditional marketing methods, even those as recent as e-mail blasts, marketing directors said. A mall's marketing staff can now tailor messages to reach a smaller audience quickly, they said.
And the key difference? It's the shopper who's reaching out to the mall.
"They are looking at it on their time, and . . . the benefit is just that it's more personal," said Heather Dascalopoulos, marketing assistant at Americana Manhasset, which uses its Facebook page to highlight exclusive items or its personal shopper's picks. "They are not just coming upon you in the newspaper. They are becoming a fan, and that's an active decision."
Mall marketing efforts also have gone mobile, offering shoppers smart-phone apps - useful not only for navigating a mall but also for finding deals - along with mobile versions of their websites, where customers can find digital coupons instantly.
"Shoppers are getting smarter about shopping and looking for discounts," said Ashley DoEpp, marketing director for Bay Shore's Westfield South Shore Mall. She said that change became increasingly apparent during the back-to-school shopping season. On Black Friday the mall is planning to launch its Facebook page and Twitter program, which will offer frequent updates on sales and promotions.
"So social media apps are a way we can give it to them quickly," DoEpp said.
Here's a look at how some malls are using new digital strategies:
SIMON MALLS (Roosevelt Field Mall in East Garden City, Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station and Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove) offer shoppers a mobile website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Mobile Shoppers Club that texts special events and deals as well as an iPhone app with maps, deals and event listings. In addition, the mall uses Shopkick, a location-based smart-phone app that allows shoppers to notify the mall and participating retailers that they are in the facility, which may entitle them to earn points and get deals.
WESTFIELD SOUTH SHORE AND SUNRISE MALLS in Bay Shore and Massapequa, respectively, offer a mobile website as well as an iPhone app to navigate the mall and parking lots and find deals and events. Westfield South Shore launched its Facebook page this month. Westfield Sunrise offers a Facebook page and is on Twitter.
TANGER FACTORY OUTLET CENTERS, including Tanger Outlets at The Arches in Deer Park and the Tanger Outlet in Riverhead, offer a mobile version of the two centers' websites, a Facebook page and Twitter program and a text-messaging program. Tanger expects to have a smart-phone app available at the end of this month or early in December.