RETAIL HEATS UP
Summer and the city never mix too well. With the unbearable heat and no beach or pool immediately in sight, urbanites are forced to seek refuge in air-conditioned stores. Increased foot traffic offers a welcome addition to these stores. But keeping shoppers from heading to other cooler venues can pose a problem. Which is why retailers are further embracing the digital world to keep the shopping experience seamless with virtual dressing rooms and mobile checkout. Stores are also trying to set themselves apart through experiential offerings by adding amenities that shoppers would seek elsewhere for like coffee or snacks. With countless stores and the heat on the rise, the Urbanist will have a very productive season.
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Shedding New Light on Shoppers
As it has with banks, restaurants, and movie theaters, technology is now weaving its way into grocery and convenience stores, taking the guesswork out of shopping for consumers and merchants alike. On the merchant front, two companies—Carrefour and Nisa—are using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to track a shopper’s journey around a store. The BLE beacons, which are attached to carts and baskets, send signals continuously to sensors in the store ceiling. Merchants can then use this data to note how shoppers are travel around the store, how long they spend in each section, and how much time they spend overall in the store—information that enables them to position products strategically throughout the store. Consumers, likewise, can benefit from smartphone technology in their everyday grocery stops with Philips smart lighting system. Through a light-based positioning grid, your smartphone can tell you the exact route to take in the grocery store to get everything on your list. Not quite sure what you need? No problem. Your smartphone will also be able to give you suggestions based on a category, such as pointing out which pastries are on sale when you are on the hunt for tonight’s dessert.
By combining these two technologies, merchants will be able to better position and sell their products, and the trip will still be simple and time-efficient for customers.
Adding Dimension to Shopper Needs
Bringing ideas to life is the implicit mission of various supply stores—a mission that is being taken very literally by Staples and Home Depot as these two retailers find a way to incorporate 3-D printers into their respective stores. Both will be offering on-site, on-demand 3-D printing stations where walk-in customers will be able to print action figures, tools, and other self-created files—all as a means of showcasing various printer brands and materials. Staff trained in operating these demos will be on hand, ready to answer customer questions and help create files for printing. Through these in-store kiosks and interactive demos, Home Depot and Staples hope to pique the interest of small businesses and drive them to purchase these printers for their companies. Selling these once-futuristic devices in-store also marks a change in times, as 3-D printers become less of a novelty item and more accessible to the everyday consumer.
Get a Jump on Amazon Prices
The days of relying on Amazon for the lowest prices might soon be over, thanks to PriceJump. This price-comparison tool is changing online-shopping methods, making finding the best deal quicker and easier than ever. When products are displayed on Amazon, PriceJump lets the shopper know immediately if they are looking at the best price, by displaying a green check mark by the item, or if a better one can be found elsewhere—in which case a yellow warning symbol or red “X” appears. And the results might surprise you: according to Savings.com, buyers can find better deals at retailers other than Amazon about half the time—and as much as 70% of the time on items priced over $100. This isn’t to say that Amazon will suffer anytime soon, though. Although items might be cheaper on other sites, Amazon Prime customers could still make up for the price difference through the program’s free shipping and guaranteed delivery times, two factors that PriceJump isn’t yet able to compare. Regardless of its shortcomings, this application is certain to weave its way into shopper habits, with buyers searching Amazon for the PriceJump green check that ensures they are looking at the best deal available.
Subscription Service Sets Up Shop
Birchbox, the revolutionary subscription service that delivers the latest in beauty samples right to your door, is now expanding its empire through a new retail shop in SoHo. Complete with full-size versions of its popular samples, exclusive Birchbox products, and even in-store services for hair, nails, and makeup, the flagship is truly a beauty addict’s haven. True to its original “beauty box” theme, the store includes a “Build Your Own Birchbox” station, where shoppers can choose a sample from each of the brand’s five beauty categories to build a completely customized box for just $15. Whether you’re a dedicated subscriber looking to restock your favorite Birchbox staple or simply popping in for quick hair and makeup tips, this subscription-service turned storefront is sure to satisfy all of your beauty needs.
For more urban trends & insights, check out next month’s issue.
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