Mall of America (MOA) is the largest retail and entertainment destination in the U.S. With more than 5.6 million sq ft to manage and over 520 retailers to communicate and build relationships with, the Mall saw the opportunity for technology to deliver efficiencies and build community.
In conversation with Janette Smrcka, IT Director at Mall of America.
What problems did you want to solve with technology?
The goal was to streamline communications and operations in one of the world’s premier shopping and leisure destinations.
Improving communication efficiency
Prior to introducing Mallcomm, MOA faced several communications and management challenges. For instance, if we needed to share vital information with our 520 tenants we would have mall employees hand-deliver a printed sheet to every store, restaurant and attraction. This was an inefficient and ineffective method that often took hours to complete. It greatly hindered our ability to notify tenants in a timely manner.
A good example can be found in our recent past. Just over a year ago Minnesota hosted Super Bowl LII. Many of the significant events surrounding that world-wide media circus were hosted at Mall of America. During the 10-day period, when Mall of America welcomed more than 1.5 million guests, we had to hand-deliver information to our tenants. Messages as simple as a change in mall hours or transportation locations could take us hours to get to all of our tenants. At a time when so many other issues needed our attention, we were wasting time and energy on an inefficient method of communication.
We were also looking for a technology platform that would allow us to customize our communications and interactions based on the message, or the type of audience we needed to reach. So rather than sending the exact same message to every tenant, the technology must be able to allow us to target those stores or tenants that need to receive the relevant information. It was also critical that we use a technology platform that would allow us to understand which recipients actually opened and read the messages – Mallcomm is able to do this quite effectively.
Storing and managing information
One other issue that we have struggled with in the past was keeping an accurate list of the key contacts for each of our stores, restaurants and attractions. As you can imagine, there is a lot of turnover in the retail industry and simply relying on the store managers to update this information was not a reliable method. In the event of a crisis (which could be something as simple as a water leak), we must make sure the correct people that need to know can be reached quickly and efficiently.
After conducting our due diligence, and researching a number of potential solutions, it was clear that Mallcomm would be a good fit for Mall of America. This technology platform has unparalleled features that include a particularly robust API. With such a high number of tenants at Mall of America, API’s are critical to our success. If we were forced to manually update all information, not only would it be time-consuming, but it also increases the high risk of errors. With Mallcom, our tenants have been onboarded and they can easily retrieve information about the mall before they even open their doors for the first time.
How is Mall of America using Mallcomm?
Although it sounds like hyperbole, Mallcomm has been a game-changer at Mall of America. It has greatly increased our effectiveness when communicating with our tenants. For the first time in our 28-year history, tenants have a single resource which they can access to receive standard documentation, timely messages and helpful information. They can also send questions directly to mall management in order to help them with any issues they may be facing.
Single point of communication
Prior to using Mallcomm, there was no single point of communication for all of our tenants. It was not unusual for a tenant with a concern to email several individuals or departments within the mall and to place phone calls as well. This was not an effective use of time for the tenant or mall team members. With Mallcomm our tenants have a single point of contact and they know that their questions will be addressed by the correct mall employee in a timely manner.
Holidays are a good example of how Mallcomm is benefiting not only our tenants but making the communications process easier for Mall of America employees as well. As the Easter holiday approached, many tenants had questions about Mall hours on that date. In the past, they may have struggled to find the correct information. With Mallcomm, all of the relevant information was easily accessible to all of our tenants – a fact that helped ease their stress during this busy time of year.
Another clear benefit for our mall stores, and the thousands of people that work in this building, are the sales that have resulted from the ’deals’ that are posted on Mallcomm by our retailers. This option raises awareness of discounts and sales – and helps to drive internal customers into the stores to increase sales volume. Very quickly we saw great adoption of this feature by our tenants and in no time hundreds of deals were posted – much to the delight of our many employees.
Another significant obstacle facing retailers in the U.S. is difficulty in hiring and retaining employees. Mallcomm helps to address this issue by allowing stores to post job openings and available hours. In the first weeks after implementing Mallcomm dozens of vacancies were posted – and we’ve heard from some of our stores that it gives them another tool to help address this critical issue.
Why did you select Mallcomm?
Again, we did a lot of research prior to deciding to partner with Mallcomm. But it was clear that the Mallcomm technology platform was the very best fit for Mall of America and our tenants.
Mallcomm gives us great insight into how engaged our tenants are, which types of information are most valuable to them, and it provides an easy way for tenants to seek our direct answers to their specific questions. This platform allows us to see if they have – or haven’t – updated their store manager and emergency keyholder information. This helps us to ensure that all of our tenants have the correct people connected to Mallcomm – and ultimately positioned to receive accurate information from mall management.
Supports emergency comms
The platforms make it easy for us to update key contacts so they can be included with our emergency communication system, eliminating the need to manually update these lists. And Mallcom empowers managers to ensure that the correct people in the individual stores, restaurants and attractions can receive emergency procedures and notifications.
Keeps everyone informed
Mallcomm also allows hourly staff members in our stores to understand what is happening at the mall. With more than 400 events every year, countless charity activations and celebrity appearances it can be difficult for anyone to remember all that is happening at Mall of America. Mallcomm helps to solve that issue with our store employees. Now they can have real-time insights into what’s happening at the mall on a daily basis. Prior to implementing Mallcomm, it was up to store managers to share or post the information for their employees – something that often did not happen.
Great team to work with
I would also like to add that the entire Mallcomm team has been great to work with. From our very first conversation, it was clear that they cared about the success of Mall of America, and that they wanted to be good partners. They continue to be very responsive and maintain open and clear communication with our entire team. The Mallcomm team is always willing to look at new ways to help us accomplish our goals. And they don’t hesitate to make recommendations so we can continue to improve our business effectiveness – this has been truly refreshing. Finally, having the Mallcomm visit Mall of America so they could get a feel for our business was critical to the success of our partnership.
What are the main benefits of using Mallcomm?
Clearly, streamlined and efficient communication with our tenants has been the biggest success for us. This has helped to end years of frustrating, outdated methods of communication and it removed redundant and inefficient manual processes.
After a very short time, we are already at 99 per cent adoption rate with our tenants which is incredible. And anecdotally we have heard from many of our tenants that they find Mallcomm to be a valuable tool.
Perhaps one of the things I find most exciting about partnering with Mallcomm is thinking about what’s next. It’s clear that Mallcomm is willing to work with and to motivate Mall of America to take even greater strides in this new era of tenant relations. There are so many possibilities to build off of this platform. We see our partnership with Mallcomm as a way to empower our tenants. Working with Mallcomm and our tenants, we believe this is a path to an even more efficient and successful future.