Allan Haims, a former president of Wet Seal Inc. and former senior vice president of Disney Stores Worldwide, knows a thing or two about promoting. Now his new company, StepsAway, has developed an app taking promotions to another level.
“It’s hyper-local,” Haims said. “It allows retailers to create and deliver promotions to smartphones when shoppers log on to the mall WiFi network.”
Taubman Centers Inc. is testing StepsAway in six malls with about 10 national chains including Express, Sephora, The Art of Shaving, Things Remembered and Kay Jewelers. From their headquarters, retailers use the cloud-based SAConnect to create and deliver promotions to smartphones. When they hit start, it’s delivered to the mall’s guest WiFi network. Consumers access the free, browser-based StepsAway app, SAMobile, that lets them search for deals by category or store name, while at the mall.
“This is a very interesting technology that we are trying, but it’s a test and we are testing lots of things,” said William Taubman, chief operating officer of Taubman Centers. Still, Taubman said StepsAway could help his malls get more insights into consumers and develop better relationships. “For the first time, this gives us a window into who she is. As a mall owner, we’ve never had a direct relationship with the consumer. Our tenants do,” said Taubman.
Once on StepsAway, consumers see a listing of departments — women’s, men’s, kids’, fine jewelry, food and home — similar to looking at a mall directory, or a listing of the participating stores. If they search women’s, for example, they can find deals on dresses, blouses and other classifications in the category. Consumers can also see flash sales. “This is about pull, not push technology. I don’t presume to know what she [the consumer] wants,” said Haims, the president and chief executive officer of StepsAway, who raised $4 million in Series A funding to launch the company. It went live in mid-August.
StepsAway would be competing with other digital technologies that send notifications to consumers’ smartphones about discounts and loyalty rewards as they shop inside department stores using beacon technology, which recognizes the apps on smartphones. Several Hudson’s Bay Co., Lord & Taylor and Macy’s Inc. stores have begun using beacon technology with a limited number of brands and categories. Unlike StepsAway, customers must download an app and opt in to receive push notifications.
StepsAway also enables a single store within a multiunit chain to run its own price promotion based on its own clearance requirements, and other technologies sending notifications to smartphones tend not to be as hyper-local, meaning the discounts offered could be near but not necessarily right in the mall. The six Taubman malls that signed on are Twelve Oaks in Novi, Mich.; Cherry Creek Shopping Center, in Denver; Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va.; International Plaza in Tampa, Fla.; Stamford Town Center in Stamford, Conn., and Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord, Calif.
StepsAway, Haims added, is “a turn-key solution” for retailers to go mobile in days if they have not deployed a mobile app.