On the Fence

A shopping center owner and manager is on the cutting edge of mobile marketing. DDR Corp., which owns and manages 538 value-oriented shopping centers in the United States, Puerto Rico and Brazil, is testing a service in select properties that combines physical retail assets with location-based mobile marketing.

To launch the program, called ValuText, DDR partnered with Denver-based strategic marketing firm Cohn Marketing and Placecast, whose technology powers the solution. The Placecast technology combines geo-fencing — which creates a pre-defined, virtual space around a particular location — with messaging, allowing an opt-in customer to receive a promotional text message once she enters the pre-set radius.

DDR’s objective was to create a text messaging-based technology that would allow its retail tenants to formulate special offers and message those offers to customers once they crossed into the geo-fence area and opted in. To allow for a range of offers, Cohn added hyperlinks to the URL.

“A participating consumer will get an initial text message from one retailer — selected randomly — and with that first message will get a URL,” explained Michael Barber, director of digital strategy for Cohn Marketing.

The consumer then clicks on the URL to view all of the deals being offered by the various retailers at the center, a customized feature that is unique to the technology. The ValuText program, which works on nearly all phone types, eliminates the shopper having to download or activate a smartphone app to see the offers. Shoppers simply opt in once.

The program is currently in place at 27 DDR shopping centers across the nation. The six-month pilot, which launched in December, is expected to deliver enough data to allow for any necessary tweaks prior to a rollout.

“During the pilot period, we will be able to dissect our portfolio by type and know which will be most suited to this program or which will require variations to the program,” said John Kokinchak, senior executive VP and chief administrative officer, DDR, Beachwood, Ohio.

The program is especially well suited to smaller retailers because participation is free. A retailer in one of the pilot shopping centers can call DDR headquarters and give the coupon/offer instructions to marketing staff over the phone, or can go online and enter the information themselves.

Even though no national retailers are yet participating in ValuText, their offers are a part of the program. DDR utilizes technology that scans for relevant offers, collects the data online and brings relevant national retailer deals into the system.

“These promotions are existing offers that the national retailers are advertising, and we are adding those offers to our ValuText program so that our shopping center consumers will have the ability to receive a full range of offers once they opt in,” Kokinchak explained.

The opt-in by consumers is fairly straightforward. On-site signage advertises ValuText, encouraging shoppers to text a code to a pre-set number. Once a consumer opts in, she will begin receiving offers and discounts via text from the various merchants in the center. Once the shopper drives away from the center, all promotional texts cease. Because the program is location-based, notifications are triggered by proximity to the property.

DDR hopes to garner full participation from the national retailers in the months ahead and have the chains provide exclusive offers geared toward their stores in the DDR shopping centers. And while the service is still in the testing stages, it has attracted considerable interest from other shopping center developers.           

“Since launching the pilot test of ValuText, we have received considerable interest from other shopping center companies, asking about implementing the technology at their centers,” Kokinchak said. “It is quite possible that this could become the single biggest mobile marketing platform for shopping centers in the industry.”

kboccaccio@chainstoreage.com