Imagine this: You head to the mall after work one evening elated that you’ve finally decided to purchase those nude patent peep toes you’ve been pining over (and saving up for) all summer only to discover that the last pair in stock sold yesterday during a special one-day sale to reward customers visiting the store’s website and interacting on social media. Bummer. But thanks to Sara Wallace, Destiny USA shoppers can now stay up-to-the-minute informed about the latest sales, promotions and events happening throughout the stores and facility itself.
Hired last September as the only female executive on The Pyramid Companies’ five-member development team, Wallace single-handedly launched Destiny’s social networking efforts to establish a platform for social engagement for the brand that would draw people to the online and physical sites, especially the mall’s target audience — females, more so university students who are very present on social media. Within a year, the marketing maven has garnered nearly 5,000 likers for the facility’s Facebook page and more than 1,500 Twitter followers.
“I remember building the page, holding down the mouse button ready to launch it publicly and thinking, ‘here goes nothing!’” she said. “The response has been amazing. There’s nothing I love more than people being able to ask a question and being able to answer it right back. It’s great to have that direct form of communication.”
Through creating Destiny USA accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, the Oswego native treated followers to sneak peek photographs during the construction phase and implemented cool marketing tactics to hype excitement about new eateries, retail outlets and entertainment options coming to the mall. For example, before announcing that Pole Position Raceway had signed on, she posted a blurry image of the store’s logo and asked Facebook followers to guess the store. After an overwhelming response, one user deduced the answer, sparking chatter amongst the other users that Wallace was able to sit back and monitor.
“It’s really fascinating amidst bringing in all the new brands and doing a brand transition as well ourselves,” she said. “Our goal is to raise brand awareness to all new retail brands going on inside, which is more than 260, and getting all people in the community to be aware that it will no longer be Carousel Center but a new facility with a whole new environment.”
Another user-friendly enhancement she’s bringing on board is the installment of 30 social media-integrated digital directories inside the complex. According to Wallace, these wayfinding digital kiosks aim to keep shoppers informed and help drive customer traffic through live updates on the screen. “One side will be merchants and us posting about sales and the other side will be people inside the facility posting pictures and talking about events,” Wallace said, adding that the format is similar to iPhone iMessaging bubbles. “It will make others way more likely to try things out, just like you would if a friend recommended a store, sale or restaurant to you.” An on-site bonus: people outside of the mall can join in the conversation, too. “Say I’m sitting in my dorm room and I’m bored lounging on my couch all day, but that pops up on my screen and I see the shoes that I’ve been waiting to go on sale forever are now on sale so I’m going to go and check it out,” she said.
The forward-thinking signage will also make the new 1.3-million-square-foot expansion less overwhelming as directions and store maps can be emailed to shoppers’ smartphones, and the company’s Facebook and website can be easily accessed as well.
While Wallace’s major task at hand is running Destiny’s social media — the company doesn’t set job titles — she’s also responsible for writing/distributing press releases, keeping mall marketing directors properly informed when acquiring new tenants and coordinating and providing materials for events above basic store promos amid the entire Pyramid portfolio. Her duties and location, whether in her extra large office space in Clinton Square, on site at the mall or out in the community meeting people, can change from day to day. But this unpredictability and the opportunity to “jump into new waters” keeps her focused. “My goal is to bring new ideas, to be as helpful as possible and to create more ambition in myself and those around me to have more successful days ahead,” she said.
And this dedication earned the self-proclaimed perpetual student a seat at the company’s coveted Saturday morning leasing meetings. “When you’re really invested in what you’re doing and really enjoy it you find yourself wanting to do more and more of it,” she said. “I tend to like things that are very challenging to me because I’m determined to overcome them.” (Just look at her educational track record: this tall drink of water is fluent in Spanish and Russian, holds a B.A. in political science and Russian studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and an M.A. in history and political development from SUNY Oswego and held foreign policy internships abroad.)
Despite her quick rise to success at Pyramid, pursuing a career in public relations was never part of the plan for the six-foot dark-haired beauty. Although after taking a job fresh out of college at Levick Strategic Communications in Washington, D.C., she knew it was the right career choice. “Thinking through my behavior and the classes I took, I can now see why this was such a great fit for me,” Wallace said. “I just like talking to people and giving my perspective.”
Wallace decided to look for jobs back home once the excessive commuting and longing for her family began to outweigh the benefits of city living. As fate would have it, during a weekend visit to go camping with her parents in Geneva last August she got the phone call from Pyramid spokesman David Aitken to come in for an interview the following morning. A week later she was hired and signed an apartment lease. “It’s funny how quickly things come together,” she said. “In D.C. I never felt settled. I was constantly moving. I lived in three different places, always commuting and I never felt connected with the city itself. I loved the experience but slowly came to realize I just couldn’t live there.”
Today, Wallace arrives early to work every morning, with a smile on her face, eager to dig in to the day’s work — and she loves her quick 10-minute commute to the office. But there are still instances where she has pinch-myself moments because she can’t believe she had a hand in creating the online voice for Destiny USA, now the sixth largest mall in the nation. “There are times when I’m sitting at my desk or standing in the middle of nowhere and think, ‘I don’t know many other 25 year olds who can say they’re doing what I’m doing,’” she said. “It makes me feel so lucky for all of the experiences that helped get me to where I am.”
And she’s just getting started — there are many more exciting projects in the works, Wallace said. While she couldn’t divulge the details, she did share the overall goal: “The focus now is looking at what is going to make the facility as great as it can be, the experience so much better than before and make every consumer’s experience where they walk out feeling good about themselves and us and keep coming back.”
So, the next time you’re sitting in the mall treating yourself to a yogurt for finally snagging those shoes and see a dress on sale that would go perfectly with your new pumps pop up on the directory screen, you know who to applaud.