In business since 1995, Pine Tree, based in Northbrook, Illinois, specializes in open-air retail venues, typically anchored by a grocery store and featuring large national chains along with smaller regional and local businesses. With a long-standing commitment to customer service, Pine Tree strives to be not just a landlord but a partner with all its tenants, and continually seeks new ways to help promote each of its center’s individual businesses in order to help increase foot traffic and raise their profile in the communities they serve.
In recent years, Pine Tree’s senior management has embraced social media as a pivotal strategy in marketing their tenants’ services, products, and in-store activities, with active accounts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. What the company lacked was a dedicated web presence for each of its shopping centers that would allow their individual tenants to reach their key audiences and a larger public with special offerings, discounts, in-store events, and other time-sensitive news.
In 2014, Pine Tree Realty sought out a web design firm that would fill that gap by creating a microsite for one of its newer properties, the Poplar-Prairie Stone Crossing Shopping Center. Located right off a major interstate highway in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Poplar-Prairie has more than 312,000 square feet of retail space occupied by Target and other national retailers including Ross, TJ Maxx, Petsmart, Michaels, and Sports Authority, along with an array of smaller businesses.
Pine Tree envisioned the microsite as an online, consumer-facing directory that would reflect the center’s tagline, “shopping simplified.” feature information about Poplar-Prairie’s individual tenants; advertise special offers on their products and services; promote upcoming in-mall events; and allow users to sign up for timely newsletters offering exclusive discounts. And, with the holidays quickly approaching, Pine Tree needed a web design firm that could turn the project around in a matter of weeks.
After doing an online search for an experienced web design firm, Pine Tree sought out Solid Digital to develop Poplar-Prairie’s microsite. Our designers thrive on tight deadlines and the chance to prove they can hit the ground running with a comprehensive strategy that fits the client’s vision, budget, and timeline.
With four weeks from start to launch, we got to work immediately after our first discovery phone call and met face to face with Pine Tree’s senior marketing team for a crash course in the marketing challenges of open-air retail shopping malls. We learned that, unlike the “captive audiences” enjoyed by indoor malls, where touch-screen store directories, manned information booths, and multi-storied floor plans can help steer and enlarge a shopper’s “footprint,” patrons of open-air malls are typically “in-and-out” shoppers who are attracted by the center’s convenient location and often frequent just a single store per visit.
What the Poplar-Prairie shopper needed was an easy-to-use online tool that could be accessed on a smart phone from any location and effortlessly offer up an array of enticing deals at their fingertips. Key to the user experience would be the ability to scan coupons right from the screen; receive news updates about “flash deals” from any of the center’s retailers; and navigate the mall with an interactive map and store locator that could help steer the shopper to other stores he or she might not have considered or known about before.
Naturally, we took a mobile-first approach to the design and, with all hands on deck, turned around a light-weight, WordPress-driven, responsive microsite for Poplar-Prairie that met Pine Tree’s tight deadline. The site’s features include:
Poplar-Prairie’s microsite has since been adopted by several other Pine Tree-owned shopping centers and has proven to be a value-added asset for tenants and shoppers alike. The microsite is also a value-add asset in Pine Tree’s portfolio that marries traditional brick-and-mortar retail with 21st century technology, to provide the ultimate experience in “shopping simplified.”