Mobile Retail Monday is a weekly column on mobile apps by retail customer experience designer Mike Wittenstein. Each week, you'll get a test drive of a leading retail app including pictures of key features and commentary on what works—and what doesn't. If you want your store's app reviewed, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Simon Malls App offers lots of options and a robust framework for expansion but other than specials and deals, it suffers from not having enough relevant content. Of course, it's hard to keep 1,000+ pieces of information on hundreds of always-changing shopping centers up-to-date, but if that's the app's promise, the promise should be kept!
The Simon Malls App does a good job of helping you find Simon-branded malls across the country. It only takes a couple of clicks to get to the level of detail you want and this app offers three ways to get there.
The Home Screen offers nine functions. (I'd like to see these tie in with way-finding graphics inside the malls to make recognition easier.)
Deals is the most valuable to consumers. It offers a summary of promotions and specials in the Simon directory. These deals are also located with other brands' deals in the Events directory.
Unfortunately, there's not much content in this area to be worthwhile for shoppers to check.
Favorites offers customers the option to add their favorite stores, deals and events on one convenient screen. It seems that a programmer, not a real shopper, originally suggested this feature. What's the point?
The dining, entertainment, and stores options all work the same way. Alphabetical presentation is the default with 'search by recommendations' the only other option. The information screen that follows your choice is clean and clear. One click gets you to what's most important.
The database powering this app may need an update. This mall, for example, has a movie theater behind it. Maybe it's not part of the Simon mall experience because their company does not manage the theatre. However, I consider the movie theater part of 'the mall' and would like to see it listed there just the same.
There's a 'Change Mall' feature located on almost every screen. You can use it to see what other properties nearby have in the way of amenities.
The Mall Map feature is hard to use but is accurate in its representation. The phone number and deals are clickable from a pop-up info box.
Simon provides a useful overview of the property under the 'About The Mall' option. Simon does a good job of making the actionable information available to shoppers with large buttons that are easy to read and click.
The Simon app ties in neatly with FourSquare. You can check in (for the mall itself), find out which friends are nearby or leave a comment for Simon.
It's a great idea to embed a parking reminder into a mall map. Helping people remember where they parked their car saves the security team time and avoids shopper frustration. However, taking a picture of your car amidst other vehicles that will probably move while you're inside shopping is not the best way to remember where your car is. Neither is marking a pushpin on a map that measures distance in blocks, not feet. After all, you're already at the mall. Simon, you can do better!
The Simon Mall app could be great. It just needs more information, tighter integration with vendors' apps, sites and information, and a relentless focus on what shoppers (not mall managers) need.
Retailers and their property management companies haven't decided who is taking the lead in developing the virtual experience in malls. Whoever doesn't decide will be left behind.
- Action buttons get you to the info you need quickly.
- Good array of features (but weak on content). Deals offers a real reason to use the app.
What's Not So Good
- The content is extremely limited.
- The app doesn't offer directions.
- You can't buy gift cards.
- The find feature requires you to know the name of the store or restaurant you're looking for.
- You can't buy a new card or add to the balance on the one you have.
What I Would Do
- Tie in with current store promotions to make the information in the app more current.
- Power the app with Xtify so that, at no cost to Simon, individual stores can promote to smartphone users while they're in the mall.
- Use PointInside for directions and maps.
- Supply individual retailers and chains with statistics on traffic the Simon App led to their sites.
- Extend the Simon Gift Card with a recommendation engine.
- Help the entertainment options fit into someone's lifestyle by suggesting or bundling special combinations (dinner and a movie for example).
- Tie program icons to way-finding signage in the malls for a consistent look and easier recognition.
- Add a search bar with type-ahead text recognition to the map page.
- Embed a QR code reader into the app and help shoppers to understand the offers they see.
- Add search by item to the Find features through the app.