Taubman Centers Inc. has learned the best way for mall retailers to get in front of customers is to get on their screens. Mobile screens, that is.

The mall operator continues its rollout of the StepsAway app, which it began doing roughly a year ago at six malls initially. Today, it said it will be adding four more by the end of the year. Those centers are The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey; Westfarms in Connecticut; The Mall at Green Hills in Tennessee, and The Mall at University Town Center in Florida.

StepsAway lets retailers connect with shoppers once they sign into a center’s WiFi network. After that, they have access to store-specific deals.

The key question for Taubman, when it first began testing StepsAway, was what motivates consumers to use their WiFi.

“One of the theories was that WiFi is great and consumers expect it at a bare minimum, but consumers are always looking for value and that value can come in many different ways,” said Ivan Frank, Taubman’s director of digital marketing. “We’ve seen that StepsAway and the retailer-information offers they provide, are increasing WiFi usage. It may sound like basic learning, but it’s a fundamental thing.”

The number of customers who use WiFi has seen double-digit percentage growth since the implementation of StepsAway and there’s a “good possibility that it will be in all of our malls at some point,” Frank said.

“At the end of the day, all that we really care about is the consumer experience and when we look at how consumers use digital during a shopping experience, they’re not sitting down with an app for 10 or 15 minutes and paying attention to that,” Frank said. “What they’re doing is they’re on a 90-minute journey and during that 90-minute journey, they’re using their phone as a digital guide.”

StepsAway, which launched last year and is headquartered out of Los Angeles, was started by Allan Haims, a former Wet Seal Inc. president and former senior vice president of Disney Stores Worldwide.

Once the four Taubman centers implement the technology, StepsAway will be at 40 malls, operated by multiple shopping center owners, throughout the country.

The company will then turn its attention to increasing personalization with the app for shoppers, according to Haims. It recently upgraded the platform retailers use to create and send their promotions to shoppers’ phones so that a process that previously took as many as five minutes, is now cut in half.

Haims said StepsAway has also started conversations to take the app to malls internationally, which will be a greater focus for the company next year.

StepsAway, which has a team of 12 spread across its Los Angeles and Los Gatos, Calif., offices, has raised $5.5 million to date via a group of private investors.

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