March 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Bloomie’s woos young shoppers with social retailing

In a test of a “Magic Mirror” system from IconNicholson, fashion retailer Bloomingdale’s let in-store shoppers send images of themselves wearing new outfits to online friends, who send back comments and images of suggested fashions.

Bloomingdale’s may be known as a fashion destination, but that doesn’t mean it can’t reach out more to teens and young adults. So in a recent test at its flagship 59th Street Store in New York, it offered an interactive sales-floor mirror that let shoppers view themselves in outfits as well as comments-and images of alternate garments-sent to the mirror by their online friends.

If the shopper likes the looks of a dress suggested by a friend, she can touch the mirror to make the image of the dress appear life-size, then stand in front of the of it to virtually try it on.

Voila-social retailing. If web-based social networking can work wonders as a marketing and branding tool, online social retailing just might do the same for in-store retailing, says Tom Nicholson, CEO of IconNicholson, the company behind the “Magic Mirror.”

“We see this is a way of bringing the power of the web into stores to support customer sales,” he says.

“Today’s young tech-savvy shopper expects to be connected 24/7 with her friends even while she shops,” adds Frank Doroff, senior executive vice president and general merchandise manager for Bloomingdale’s. “Social Retailing enhances that ability to connect and I expect will draw new, younger shoppers to our stores.”

IconNicholson’s Social Retailing application is more than just a single mirror, of course. It encompasses multiple mirrors and includes video cameras that transmit images of the shopper over the Internet to a designated web site, where the shopper’s friends can view real-time, moving images of the shopper in different outfits. At the same time, the online friends can choose from alternate products or accessories in an online product catalog, then click to send images of their suggested products along with comments to appear in a panel display on one of the mirrors.

Bloomingdale’s, a unit of Federated Department Stores Inc., is not ready to comment on the 3-day test of the mirror it conducted last month. But IconNicholson expects to begin rolling out the Social Retailing application this year in several stores operated by fashion designer and retailer Nanette LaPore, Nicholson says.

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