Mall at UTC

Mobile tech offers expected to be in abundance at Mall at University Town Center

Shoppers will want to make sure their smartphones are fully charged before going to the new Mall at University Town Center.

The mall's manager, Taubman Centers, is teasing technology upgrades that will be revealed next week as well as some enhanced offerings by retailers to battle online shops.

Taubman has partnered with a mobile browser-based program called StepsAway for six of its centers, including International Plaza in Tampa, according to an announcement made Wednesday. It would make sense that with all the technology upgrades the company is touting, the Mall at UTC would have to be part of this program. However, it won't be included at opening, according to a StepsAway spokeswoman.

"It is being considered for future deployment," the spokeswoman said.

Instead of using newer Bluetooth technology, StepsAway has shoppers connect to the mall's free Wi-Fi network to receive time-sensitive offers that are within steps of the retailer the shopper is visiting.

Sephora, Express, Art of Shaving and Things Remembered -- all retailers in the new mall -- are among the stores using the program so far, according to the Los Angeles-based StepsAway.

"With research showing

that 91 percent of adults have their smartphone within reach 24/7, and that nearly $600 billion of in-store sales are influenced by mobile devices, retailers and mall developers have a massive opportunity to influence in-mall purchases through mobile engagement," said Allan Haims, CEO of StepsAway.

"As the brick-and-mortar retail market's strongest revenue time of year is now underway, retail brands can extend the value of their digital marketing assets to capture every possible sale during the holiday shopping season and beyond."

The program is compatible with Apple, Android and Windows devices. Taubman has been rumored for the last year to be launching an app to use at the Mall at UTC and it remains to be seen whether it will be a dedicated application or browser-based, like StepsAway.

Macy's launched a slew of mobile upgrades, including expanding support for the popular Shopkick app nationwide. As opposed to the Wi-Fi used with StepsAway, this app can be downloaded in the App Store for iOS and is supported by various retailers.

A signal sent using Apple's iBeacon Bluetooth Low Energy protocol will give shoppers personalized deals down to the department, detecting a customer's location in the store. The phone's Bluetooth signal must be turned on to use the feature.

Macy's also announced this week that its new UTC store will be part of the company's nationwide pilot for Connect@Macy's Centers. Customers can shop at an electronic kiosk in the store with a large "lookbook" display and purchase the items on their own mobile device if they like.

Stores including Sephora, Macy's, Apple, Panera Bread, PetCo, and Toys R Us are among those that support the Apple Pay electronic payment system offered on the new iPhone 6.

Expect more mobile technology announcements in the coming days.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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