Once again living up to its reputation for using cutting-edge technology to enhance customers’ shopping experiences, Bloomingdale’s today launched a two-day test of a “Social Retailing” system at its flagship 59th Street Store in Manhattan. The Social Retailing platform, from New York-based digital technology firm IconNicholson, lets a store shopper use a full-length mirror to transmit her image to friends over the web and receive their friends’ comments and images of alternative products.
Social Retailing, originally designed by IconNicholson for apparel fashion client Nanette Lepore Inc., combines social networking and the brick-and-mortar store so customers can connect live with their online friends while they shop. Social Retailing uses an interactive mirror, also called a Magic Mirror, to transmit high-bandwidth video to friends, who can respond to the customer’s selections via instant messaging sent to the mirror. Friends can also send suggestions in the form of product images from an online catalog tied to the Social Retailing application.
The Social Retailing mirror does double duty as a touch-screen device that lets shoppers interact with friends. The mirror also superimposes life-size product images chosen by the shopper or suggested by her online friends. If the product is a dress, for instance, the store shopper can stand in front of the image to see how it looks on her.
IconNicholson says the Social Retailing system was designed to interact with young adults who are accustomed to using text-messaging, cell phones and online social networking sites. One expectation for retailers is that participants will load their shared shopping images on sites like YouTube.com and Facebook.com to produce a viral marketing effect.
“We always look to keep Bloomingdale’s at the leading edge of retail innovation,” says Frank Doroff, senior executive vice president and general merchandise manager. “Today’s young tech-savvy shopper expects to be connected 24/7 with her friends even while she shops. Social Retailing enhances that ability to connect, and I expect will draw new, younger shoppers to our stores.” Bloomingdale’s is a unit of Federated Department Stores Inc., which is No. 29 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
IconNicholson has been developing the Social Retailing for Nanette Lepore for the past year, and the data collected during the live pilot will help the company refine the product in preparation for a larger rollout, says Tom Nicholson, CEO, IconNicholson.
Among other customer-relationship innovations implemented by Bloomingdale’s include the use of Blue Martini Software to display on a cashier’s point-of-sale web-enabled screens product recommendations based on a shopper’s past shopping behavior. When the clerk swipes the card of a regular shopper, the POS screen pops up with cross-selling recommendations.
“Bloomingdale’s is the right place for our next step with Social Retailing,” Nicholson says. “The store’s customers already expect a unique shopping experience and they come from around the world to experience the latest trends in fashion and retail.”