One of the major challenges of indoor location and marketing for venue owners, malls or individual retailers is getting an app onto users’ smartphones. Retailers need to make an argument to consumers to download their apps and engage them to ensure usage. That’s because without an app there can be no notifications or other promotions — until now.
A company called StepsAway now offers an indoor marketing solution for mall owners that doesn’t require a prior consumer-app download. This is quite significant for obvious reasons. Shoppers sign in to the mall’s WiFi network and then are re-directed to a browser-based HTML “app,” featuring stores and promotions for that that location.
Users can search the app by category or store name. Time-sensitive offers for that location can be promoted by any participating retailer. StepsAway also has a WiFi business but its portal can work with any existing WiFi system.
The company makes money on monthly subscription fees that are paid by retailers to distribute content and offers through local mall “apps” provisioned by StepsAway. The company works with mall owners and retailers at the national level. It doesn’t approach individual stores in specific locations.
This should make penetrating the market much faster. And because there’s no app to develop deployment should be much quicker. The company currently works with 10 malls around the US. Obviously retailer participation is key to the success of this initiative.
Here’s the company’s pitch to retailers:
Our patent-pending proprietary desktop platform is built to easily repurpose your existing digital content. Whether there’s inventory that needs to move or a ‘price-test’ to capture more gross margin dollars, SA Connect is your ‘go to’ solution to communicate with shoppers for your ‘Regular Promotions’ or ‘Flash Sales’.
There is a StepsAway-enabled mall not too far from me but I’ve not had the opportunity to test out the experience. It’s not clear whether the portal can be used to promote individual retailer app downloads but it doesn’t appear so currently. It’s also unclear whether the company will be selling ad placements or position within the browser-based “app.” I suspect it will over time.
More than 80% of US consumers have used smartphones in stores to look for coupons, check prices or product reviews (various sources). And while nearly 90% of time spent with mobile devices happens in apps that’s not true in the retail vertical.
According to consumer research from Local Corp, conducted by the eTailing Group earlier this year (n=1,300 US smartphone users), when it comes to product research only 24% of consumers use an app. Most use a search engine (Google) or mobile website.
The StepsAway solution is thus well aligned with the current state of the market and the limited adoption of retailer apps.
Given all this I would expect that national retailers and mall owners will be quick to embrace StepsAway as one indoor marketing solution that removes much of the current friction and barriers to adoption from the consumer experience.