January 15, 2014, 9:49 AM

A mall operator installs mobile marketing technology in 34 locations

Beacons throughout its buildings broadcast to shoppers’ smartphones, sending them deals and offers based on their location. The system is designed to boost sales for retailers and brands, while providing malls with data about consumer behavior.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

Rouse Properties Inc., which owns and operates 34 malls across the United States, has equipped all its locations with technology that allows retailer and brand advertisers to market to shoppers via their smartphones. A retailer that sells online and in stores can, for example, send a shopper a coupon for a product that she’s added to her online wish list when she gets close to the store entrance.

The technology, from vendor Sonic Notify Inc., uses small beacons throughout the building that broadcast signals that can be detected by mobile apps on the smartphones of consumers in the area. The signal can trigger a retailer’s personalized greeting, special offer or product recommendations to pop up on the shopper’s phone, Sonic says. Shoppers must opt in to receive the notifications.

Sonic reports to advertisers on impressions, taps, and viewing time, as well as data related to the location, such as the store a shopper visited and the time she spent inside, Sonic CEO Aaron Mittman says. “Being able to connect brands to shoppers while they are 100% confirmed to be inside a particular retail location and with 100% confirmation of engagement with the content is very valuable,” he says.

“We are excited to be the first mall operator in the nation to utilize Sonic Notify’s interactive mobile marketing technology that creates added value for our visitors, drives increases in sales for our retailers and simultaneously provides Rouse with valuable customer behavior insights and new revenue streams,” says Andrew Silberfein, president and chief executive officer of Rouse Properties.

Sonic Notify’s beacons can communicate with both Android and Apple devices, and the signals may be broadcast through either a mall’s announcements system or via Bluetooth. The technology can also trigger notifications when a shopper has low or unavailable service, Mittman says. Some existing mobile marketing apps, such as coupon collection app SnipSnap, work with Sonic Notify, too, he adds.

For now, Sonic is setting up brands and retailers advertising in Rouse malls and other locations one by one, he says. “Of top importance is that shoppers find it to be a valuable and engaging dialog,” he says. The company has not released its pricing information, but Mittman says the contracts vary, with some malls paying for all the hardware and content management while others subsidize those costs by taking a cut of revenue that the brands and retailers generate from advertising through Sonic.  

“Right now we are getting a better understanding of the real number of engagement opportunities there are for this and are determining pricing in the market,” Mittman says.

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