Calling BS on FastMall Hype

There’s a story on Mashable about a new iPhone app called FastMall that provides maps of malls and even lets people check in, a la Foursquare. As Christina points out, this might be useful if it can scale into other location-based locations, such as amusement parks. That being said, the research I’ve seen around travel says that people want to have unique and customized experiences like stumbling across a wonderful boutique or restaurant without a map – something that the homogenous mall and iPhone apps can’t provide. I’m not suggesting this app will fail (the name implies it is focused on malls only), however it does seem to be quite misguided. Here’s why.

For those of us with retail clients this information is nothing new: Mall traffic has been steadily declining for decades, and foot traffic is down considerably and store vacancies are up the past few years. While strip malls had emerged as the car-friendly choice for those looking to “get in, get out”, even their store vacancy rates have risen recently.

The web has replaced a lot of the shopping experience, with retail spending up 3% from last year according to comScore. While I’m a firm believer in offline experiences, the trend is that it’s not happening at the mall anymore – so don’t look for mall-based apps to take off anytime soon.

Going back to the possibility of expanding this app beyond the mall: even amusement parks, while some had great attendance figures in 2009 due to heavy promotional pricing, are expecting a decrease in attendance this year. It’s possible that this is just another FourSquare competitor geared at middle America, which may give it some hope, however I can’t seeing the app taking off with consumers unless FastMall rethinks their strategy.