For the second consecutive year, COHN designed, conceived and hosted ICSC’s Technology and Social Media Pavilion at RECon 2012 in Las Vegas, the largest retail real estate convention in the world. COHN socialites CJ Powell and Lisa Wieting share insights and observations gathered from this year’s pavilion about the state of digital and social media within the retail real estate industry:
- Mobile domination. The highlight of this year’s booth was most definitely DDR’s geo-fence program—ValuText. Combining location-based text delivery with real-time relevant offers was a big hit within the industry. DDR hosted a sidebar program—ValuText@RECon—to showcase the technology, leading many attendees to our pavilion’s doorstep and multiple conversations about how the program works.
- Even the novices know what a QR code is now. In 2011, it was rare for someone to come to the Social Media Pavilion, pull out their smart phone, open up a QR reader, register to win an iPad and be on their way without any dialogue about the strange barcode. In 2012, there was still some education on how to download the reader, but most people understood how it worked. The only users who had any issue with the QR codes were Blackberry users—speaking of which…
- Out with BBM and in with MMS. Continuing on the mobile theme, we saw a huge decline in Blackberry usage. Once the preferred smartphone choice amongst the industry, iPhone and Android users skyrocketed from 2011. Why? Our guess is applications and mobile websites are much more user-friendly on these platforms and the industry is becoming more wired in on how to incorporate mobile into their business strategies.
- No more social segmentation. In 2011, many developers and retailers were launching social platforms not as part of a big picture marketing strategy but for fear of being left behind. In 2012, the level of social and digital sophistication rose significantly and questions changed from “how do I open a Facebook page and is it free” to “how do I incorporate social media into my overall marketing strategy and what type of investment am I looking at?”
- BUT… There’s still a huge gap between the basic and advanced. Our presentations, designed to be introductory, were either a true learning exercise for our attendees or too simply basic. On the advanced side, we were pretty impressed with the neat ways some people are using social and digital media. A broker in Miami is using Instagram in a really cool way to showcase interesting parts of otherwise dull commercial properties. A commercial real estate company in Hawaii is working to create a blog that shares success stories among the islands (and drive web traffic). And one landlord we met is even incorporating augmented reality to enhance the shopping experience for the consumer. Kudos all around!
- You can shut down Twitter. Thanks to Sarah Malcolm’s (ICSC’s Manager of New Media) unbelievable promotion of ICSC’s social platforms, thousands upon thousands of attendees kept the ICSC Twitter stream active. So active, in fact, that Twitter shut down an ICSC handle for posting too many tweets within a specific time frame. For an industry that was still learning what Twitter was a year ago, that is quite an accomplishment. Well done, Sarah!
- On that note, Sarah Malcolm is a social media rock star. Our final comment needs to be focused on our incredible partner Sarah and her ICSC team. One giant difference between this year and last was the level of awareness for the Social Media Pavilion. In its second year, the Social Media Pavilion was a destination for RECon attendees, as opposed to place to answer a few emails between meetings. People came to the Pavilion this year armed with questions, and it’s clear that the industry needs this piece of education for the foreseeable future. Congratulations to Sarah and her team for making the Pavilion all it can be, and we’re looking forward to watching its evolution in the years to come!