Business Today
Connect with social networks while browsing retail stores

At retail stores in North America, the offline and online worlds are colliding as storekeepers install screens that let shoppers connect with social networks as they browse the store.

Social inside the store

A demo of a store with a connected screen

Walk into the Edmonton store of Sport Chek, Canada's largest sports retailing chain, and you will see 800 screens with 220 channels worth of product images and deals. There are also treadmills fitted with special technology - when shoppers walk on it, their correct sneaker size pops up - and community walls broadcasting local sports information.

"Let's get phygital in the stores," says Frederick Lecoq, SVP of Marketing at FGL Sports Ltd, which runs Sport Chek. Lecoq was speaking at the Adobe Summit at Salt Lake City in the US, where he shared how Sport Chek's new strategy of marrying physical with digital has led to "the Edmonton store now posting 50 per cent sales growth".

At the stores of upscale American fashion retailer Nordstrom, a unique social engagement is to use Pinterest fan base to identify popular products and pin them up. The "most pinned products" are then quickly displayed on a table in the shop with special signage, garnering interest from shoppers. Nordstrom is using what Jason Goldberg, GVP, Commerce Strategy, at digital agency Razorfish, calls "social proof" to induce shoppers to buy an item.

E-commerce stores have shown that adding ratings and reviews can double the conversion of an item, says Goldberg. Now these ratings and reviews are entering physical stores in interesting ways, providing "social proof".

When a customer likes an outfit, for instance, the salesperson can use his/her tablet to put the outfit on a large screen on the wall and at once ratings and reviews from people who have bought the outfit are played out alongside with pictures from Instagram. "As opposed to static content, it's pulling all that social proof from the cloud," says Goldberg, who describes how co-shopping - collaboration between the salesperson, the shopper and the extended network outside of the shop - is now the new way of shopping in physical stores.


"E-commerce stores have shown that adding ratings and reviews can double the conversion of an item"


Commerce Strategy, Razorfish

Razorfish has done co-shopping solutions for AT&T, Audi and a host of other retailers in North America. From electronic shelf labels to screens where customers can chat with their social networks to beacons, he describes how an increasing number of retailers are now turning to technological tools to boost shopper engagement.

Since the day Burberry used magic mirrors inside the dressing room that could tell shoppers what accessories they could buy with the product they were trying on, digital in the showroom has come a long way. A host of tools is now invading the physical stores.

"Shifting our mindset from transaction to creating engagement is important," says Adam Silverman, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, explaining why this is happening.

"Fifty-two per cent of store sales are influenced online. Customers are at home doing pre-shopping. That is causing some change in how customers shop in stores. It's leading to reduction in traffic in stores," says Silverman. But this reduction is what has forced stores like Sport Chek and Nordstrom to boldly experiment with tech inside the stores.


A consensus is that digital has to seep into the DNA of every single employee and percolate from leadership down.

Silverman describes how smart retailers are using beacons inside the stores to push real-time alerts to shoppers. Going forward, he envisages a scenario where if a shopper stops in front of a product and then moves on without buying, a discount deal for the product immediately pops up on her mobile phone. "Dynamic pricing will happen at retail level, perhaps even at customer level," he says. Right now, beacons are being used to push offers, soon they will be used to push services too, he forecasts.

Physical stores are moving into real-time operations. If e-commerce took the lead in using social engagement and augmented reality to boost sales, the physical stores are now going digital to lure back the customer traffic. For customers, the shopping experience is only going to get better and better.




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Snapping Snapchat


Alibaba logo

Facebook tried to gobble up Snapchat two years ago, but it is Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba that is taking a nibble at the messaging service. Alibaba is reportedly investing $200 million in Snapchat, which puts the valuation of the photo messaging app popular with kids at $15 billion. That's fi ve times more than Facebook's offer, and shows Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel was wise in holding on. Why is Alibaba investing in Snapchat? Analysts feel Snapchat's newly launched Discover platform that opens it up to big advertising revenues could be a good enough reason.

Pin it up Brands!


Pinterest logo

For brands that have been ignoring Pinterest, this should come as an eyeopener. According to Kevin Knight, Head of Agency and Brand Strategy at Pinterest, two-thirds of what people pin on the site comes from businesses. Even if brands are not present on the visual discovery platform, their content already is, said Knight at digital marketing conference Adobe Summit. How can brands maximise their impact on the site? By pinning useful content. Putting some personality into the pin by using text overlays is another tactic.

Streaming Sensation


Meerkat logo

Meerkat, a social live streaming app launched two weeks ago, has created a fl utter as attendees at two big conferences in the US used it to send live video feed from their phone cameras. When you begin a video feed, the app sends a tweet alerting your followers. Meerkat has stolen Twitter's thunder as the microblogging site was due to launch its live streaming service Periscope. There are concerns about voyeurism, though.

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