Simon Property Group Thrives in the Age of Voice and AI with Yext
Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG) is a global leader in the ownership of premier shopping, dining, entertainment, and mixed-use destinations, and an S&P 100 company. The company’s shopping centers across North America, Europe, and Asia provide community gathering places for millions of people every day and generate billions in annual sales.
“We are the global leader in premier shopping, dining and entertainment destinations,” says Patrick Flanagan, Vice President of Digital Marketing & Strategy. “We’re hyper-focused on the quality of our portfolio, and on growing by providing the best possible omni-channel experiences to our shoppers.”
Simon Property Group faced a key decision point as it looked to the future of malls, outlet centers and the retail industry: how to reach shoppers with an accurate and compelling brand experience as they embrace new technologies, such as voice search.
“One of the ways we’ve looked at this opportunity has been how to best harness intelligent services to help us deliver tangible innovations that elevate and enhance the shopping experiences, before, during and after the visit.”
Flanagan continues, “This allows us to help our shopper find and locate our centers, whether it be via a search engine like Google, a map service like Apple Maps, an in-car GPS unit, a voice based virtual personal assistant like Alexa, or even get optimized drop off or pickup locations from Uber. Regardless of the channel, we feel a responsibility to ensure our shoppers are well equipped with accurate, complete, and easily accessible information about our shopping centers.”
Simon Property Group partnered with Yext to capitalize on these trends and continue to lead the way in a digital landscape in which indoor mapping, voice search and AI-enabled intelligent services are upending old ways of engaging shoppers.
The company started out with Yext Listings, and quickly began to use Yext as its central platform for all of its Digital Knowledge Management. Simon then added Yext Reviews, and began implementing local control and additional features like rideshare drop-off and pick-up points for its malls.
“Some of the nuanced data, like holiday hours and drop-off points, is fundamentally best owned and managed by our local teams, so we’ve given deployed access to all of our field marketing directors nationwide,” Flanagan says. “Malls change their hours more than you think, so local control has made our lives much easier and ensures the accuracy of the data.”
Competing in the World of Voice
“Regardless of how good our in-center events, our amenities, and our retailers that we’ve worked really hard to lease space to are, we have to ensure that we can answer a set of core questions when a shopper decides to look for us,” says Flanagan. “‘Is there a mall in my area?’ ‘How do I get there?’ ‘What are its hours?’ ‘How can I contact it?’ ‘Is X store located there?’ We have to get all of these things right in every single possible place the shopper cares about. All that knowledge has to be accurate, up to date, accessible and as rich as that service allows.”
“Looking to the future, we firmly believe that voice will be a bigger deal than most people realize today. We’ve seen numbers like 50% of search traffic will be voice-driven within just a couple of years thrown around, and so we knew we needed to take advantage of this. For example, with voice search, we are fascinated by what information the different virtual personal assistants know, where they get this location information from, and how deep their knowledge bases go. But we’ve come to the realization that there are a lot of things these voice-driven assistants can’t answer without us stepping up and providing that information to them.”
The Difference: One Platform to Rule them All
Flanagan’s team uses the Yext Knowledge Engine as a central platform to stay ahead of voice search and other digital knowledge challenges.
“All of a sudden with Yext, we could manage all this knowledge in one place,” explains Flanagan. “And as Yext launches new products, we grow with them. As a company, and as a marketing department, we have been moving towards larger, integrated ecosystems. If we were going to buy a marketing cloud, for example — like the Salesforce cloud — the integrations and the fluidity of being in a single stack environment, versus piecing a ‘best of breed’ type stack together, makes our lives easier. That’s exactly what Yext does for us.”
Through all of this, Flanagan’s team never loses sight of the end goal.
“Driving shopper traffic is our most critical and core mission as a marketing team, and it’s what Yext fundamentally allows us to power.”
- In first nine months after activating their Uber integration, Simon Property Group saw an average of 790 “Ride There With Uber” clicks per day, or over 217k total.
- Simon Property Group captured 826k reviews across the web in their first approximately three years with Yext, enabling them to respond and better serve their shoppers.
- Simon Property Group posted 809k+ updates about their malls to services in the Knowledge Network in their first three years with Yext.
Simon Property Group
More than 200 shopping centers in U.S. alone
S&P 100 company
$5.5 billion consolidated revenue (2017)
$1.9 billion net income (2017)
Yext products used:
Yext Listings, Duplicate Suppression, Intelligent Search Tracker, Reviews
The Shopper’s Journey:
“Our shoppers care about every aspect of the experience of going to the mall. When you got there, was there a great smell? What music could you hear? Did the door automatically open when you had your hands full with kids? We can do all that on our own. But the digital aspect is just as important; making sure you are well informed so that you can find the place, or don’t show up and the mall is closed down due to special hours.
“If you’ve never been there and your Uber driver drops you off in a back alley, and its kind of scary and dark and you have to walk all the way around the building, that’s part of the experience we’re responsible for. If we take a step back, we really need to break down every piece of that journey and make it better. And Yext is a key part of that.”
—Patrick Flanagan, Vice President of Digital Marketing & Strategy