While I wouldn’t consider myself a seasoned mall rat, I would say that I do love a good monthly jaunt to the mall – despite several protests from my wallet.

I am very familiar with the frustrations of navigating through a sea of stores in a mall, particularly after discovering that the store that I need is at the furthest possible location from where I stand. I also never seem to be able to find the directories in the mall, or when I do, the footsteps seem to take me back all the way to where I came from when I started looking for the thing. Would it be more efficient to cut out the mall altogether, and turn to an online shopping? Or, is there a digital solution to my dilemma? As I would normally do when faced with a problem, I turn to my iPhone… can I Google it? Is there an App for that?

Luckily, there is. As malls continue to combat the increasing online shopping trend across the country, mobile applications have become a popular tool to make the mall experience more convenient, more accessible, and more fun. Malls such as Toronto’s Eaton’s Centre have launched mobile applications for iPhone and Blackberry devices, allowing users to easily navigate through their malls, find the most efficient routes, and ultimately have a more enjoyable shopping experience. More importantly, they also provide up-to-date store promotions so that, if you’re like me and love a good deal, you can be sure that you make the most of your shopping expedition.

As a marketer, I can’t deny that I love mobile applications. I love them even more when they’re used effectively to market products or enhance the guest experience. While the use of mobile applications in the retail environment is still in its early stages, the potential is significant.

Imagine being able to go to the mall, search for the product you need, and have it reply with a list of mall retailers that carry the product, the price, and whether or not it is in stock. Sounds a bit like online shopping, doesn’t it? These kind of capabilities are very likely as “mall mobile apps” evolve. Retailers in the United States have also started using mobile applications for in-mall loyalty programs and incentive programs in order to enhance the mall experience.

Nevertheless, the question for retailers is whether or not these applications are worth it. In my opinion – the answer is yes. At the end of the day, will a mobile application drive me into the mall? Probably not with the current features that are available. Will it stop me from making an online purchase? The answer is a solid no. But, will it make my experience at the mall more enjoyable and encourage me to come back next time? Definitely.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Kris Hudson explores, mobile applications are just one of the ways malls are fighting the online shopping trend. If you’re going to fight digital, you might as well fight it with digital.

To read more on this topic, and information on mall mobile applications:

Market Watch’s Kris Hudson: Malls Test Apps to Aid Shoppers  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704336504576258740640080926.html

Toronto Eaton’s Centre Mall Mobile Application: http://www.mobilefringe.com/retail-shopping-center-mobile-platform/