January 19, 2012, 4:00 PM

Moosejaw plans a new store where employees will be as connected as shoppers

Associates will carry mobile devices to locate merchandise, place orders and check prices.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

The retailer's new store concept marries its e-commerce site with its stores using tablets.

How does a retailer capitalize on growing consumer use of mobile devices inside a store? In the case of Moosejaw Mountaineering, it’s embracing the reality of mobile in-store shopping, recognizing that consumers want more product information than they normally find on store shelves or displays. Moosejaw, however, doesn’t want customers getting information from competitors—it wants to be the information source.

With that in mind, Moosejaw will open a store March 3 in Natick, MA, where employees will be equipped with iPad tablets using mobile point-of-sale software designed by CrossView Inc., a multichannel services provider, says Eion Comerford, Moosejaw senior vice president of marketing and technology. The software connects directly to Moosejaw’s web servers, Comerford says.

That will allow store employees to assist shoppers in new ways, for instance, in finding an item that may not be available in the Natick store in the customer’s size or the color she wants. Without retreating to a fixed terminal, an employee can stand in the aisle alongside the customer and use the iPad to check warehouse stock, find the desired item and offer to ship it to the consumer’s home, Comerford says. Moosejaw also can use the device to check competitive pricing if the consumer says the same product is available elsewhere for less and wants Moosejaw to match the price. “We want to engage with our customers in a deeper way,” Comerford says.

Additionally, equipping sales associates with mobile access to Moosejaw’s web site inside stores will make clear to consumers that the retailer’s web site and stores are connected. While some retail chains view e-commerce and stores as separate channels, which may have different pricing or policies, consumers do not look at a retailer that way. “Their expectation is that the price they see on the site is the price in the store,” Comerford says. “If they buy something on the web site, they feel they should be able to return it in a store.”

It’s a blurring of the lines between e-commerce and stores, he says. “More people are going to a bricks-and-mortar location to check out a product, and if they can find it cheaper online, make the purchase from an e-commerce site,” Comerford says. “As a bricks-and-mortar retailer we have to offer a unique, competitive service and pricing that satisfies the consumer’s needs.”

In addition to iPads, Moosejaw, No. 252 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, will use iPod Touch devices with a cradle that includes a magnetic-stripe reader and a two-dimensional bar code scanner. Scanning a product’s bar code checks the Moosejaw database to see more product is in stock. Eventually, Moosejaw will migrate payment acceptance to its iPads, necessitating only one type of mobile device in stores, Comerford says.

The Natick store, the retailer’s eighth location, is the first of several planned locations to be outfitted with the mobile devices, Comerford says. Moosejaw expects to open the next store in May in Boulder, CO.

Unlike Moosejaw’s existing stores, which have three to four POS machines at a cost of $2,500 each, the new stores will have two traditional POS machines and two to three mobile devices. iPads start at $499 from Apple Inc. An iPod Touch device, with a cradle, costs about $800, Comerford says.

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