Radio Helps Rouse Malls Combine Online Shopping With In-Store Experience

While the debate raged this past holiday season over which was better - in- store or online shopping - The Rouse Company, operator of 34 major shopping malls around the country, found a way to combine the best of both worlds.
In August, Rouse launched a loyalty and frequency shopping program called Premier Shopper Club. The idea, according to Cathy A. Case, associate director, marketing, was to provide special services to regular customers.
In little over a year, Rouse had signed up 650,000 members throughout the country. Based on an average of 20,000 members per mall, that means there are about 100,000 members among the five New York area Rouse locations - Paramus Park, Bridgewater Commons, Willowbrook Mall, Staten Island Mall and Woodbridge Center. This past holiday season, Rouse launched a website, Premiershopperclub.com, as a communications vehicle for these loyal customers.
While the mall operator is convinced "people still want to smell, feel and touch the merchandise," the websites enabled them to preshop the malls before they got there. As the Premier Gift Finder page says: "We're bringing you a convenient way to prepare your shopping list online before visiting one of the Rouse Company's retail centers."
"Radio creates an immediacy that other adverstising alternatives don't have."
To communicate this service to consumers, Rouse utilized a 50-50 split of radio and print. The print, Case says, "was able to show the image, relative to fashion" But radio provided Rouse with some unique benefits: It personalized the experience... created a sense of urgency... delivered frequency and reach... and enabled the malls to target their best customers."
Radio, Case explains, "allows you to talk about the experience, to create a point of difference. Radio can be very sensory."
"The other thing about radio'' she adds, "is that it creates an immediacy that other advertising alternatives don't have. And we could select stations that targeted our primary customer, women, 25-54. Seventy per cent of our shoppers are women, and radio does help us target that demo."
Rouse is in the midst of surveying its customers, via both phone and E-mail, to test awareness of the campaign, but initial results, Case says, Indicate "the service orientation" of the message "really did come across." 
The holiday campaign aired for four weeks on 12 New York area radio stations, and Rouse plans to return to New York radio with a similar two-week flight in the spring. "Overall" says Case, "I felt very good about the message."