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by Elaine Misonzhnik
RetailTrafficMag.com

As retail property owners and developers continue to search for the most effective ways to use social media, they are beginning to look beyond Facebook and Twitter to build loyalty among shoppers. In the past few weeks alone, Developers Diversified Realty launched its own social network, while Madison Marquette unveiled an iPhone app for one of its lifestyle properties.

Meanwhile, Weingarten Realty has been trying to use various social networking tools to connect with brokers, tenants and customers through its Virtual Partner Network (VPN). All of these efforts are taking retail developers to a new level of sophistication in the use of social networking for marketing purposes.

Developers Diversified’s ShopStar, for instance, is what the firm calls an “online hub” for its tenants and customers. The tenants, including both retail stores and entertainment establishments, can use ShopStar to advertise special events, prizes and giveaways to shoppers. Customers, meanwhile, receive access to information about local properties and can offer feedback on what they think would improve their shopping experiences. Developers Diversified hopes the program will help build brand loyalty.

“For Developers Diversified, it was important to tie together both the online and in-center experiences and we felt we could better do this by developing a customized online program,” as opposed to a stand-alone Facebook page, says Scott Schroeder, vice president of marketing and corporate communications with the firm. “Developers Diversified wanted our online program to seamlessly integrate into our current company culture and truly engage shoppers and give them a reason to continually return to our sites.”

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