Archive for the ‘Social Retailing’ Category

Brand Engagement – Apple Store

Do you have young teenagers? If so, do they like to go to the mall and hang out at the Apple Store and take goofy pictures of themselves using “Photo Booth”? If so, you are not alone. Young teens share a couple of common traits:

  1. They have time to kill, but not a lot of money
  2. They are hyper-connected and highly social
  3. They like to play with stuff
  4. They love the Apple Store

If you ask them why, they will tell you “It’s Fun!” or “Because the have cool stuff to do there”. Flip that around and ask them why they don’t love to hang out at the the big CE retailers and you probably hear them say “there’s nothing for us to do there.”

How does Apple feel about all the kids always in their store playing with the cool stuff, but not buying anything. They absolutely encourage it. Sure, the kids can be obnoxious and disruptive, but they are also engaging with the brand in a way that most other purchasing segments never will. Apple is smart enough to realize that these kids have a significant say in family technology purchases today, and in a few years, when they become purchasers, Apple will be top of mind for them.

How strong is this brand engagement? I often use my soon-to-be-13-year-old daughter as a barometer. Statistically invalid, but directionally OK. She called me into the family room yesterday because she wanted to show me the cool menu that she had built for a DVD she was making for her friends. It was “cool” and I told her so (egos need lots of strokes at this age), but then the first scene of content began, she really had my atention. It was entitled “The Apple Store”. It’s a simple slideshow set to music. The images are a collection of manipulated Photo Booth pictures taken of her and her friends in the store and e-mailed home over the last year. (Interesting thought as I am writing…. it would have never crossed my mind even five years ago that kids would be creating and publishing their own movies, but I’ll save that for another post).

So this post could be about several things that I like to rant about. The migration of content from Mass to Personal. The consumer technology that makes this easy. The close, hyper-connected relationships that today’s youth have with each other. But the big takeaway for me is that Apple, either by accident or by design, has tapped into the next generation of digital lifestyle consumers and they are totally engaged with the brand. Can you imagine kids making movies about their experiences at Circuit City or Best Buy?

But Apple has figured it out. Whether its the purchasing customer or just the pack of kids passing through on their daily romp through the mall, Apple knows that brand engagement is created not through finding, selecting and purchasing a bundle of products and services. That’s an orthodoxy that they have clearly overturned. They understand it’s created through customer experience, but not just during the in-store transaction. They design the experience around the customer’s (or future customer’s) life.

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Social Retailing

x07.jpg

Picture this, ladies… You walk into the store and go straight to the big mirror with the touchscreen panel beside it. You select select 30 different clothing items from the touchpanel and then stand on the big spot on on the floor. As if by magic, the first pair of jeans that you selected appears in the mirror right over your reflection giving the illusion that you are wearing them. They look ok, but you aren’t sure. Not to worry as you asked some of your BFFs to join you online. That image in the mirror is also showing up on your page and your friends can vote up or down on each selection. In fact, anyone who is a friend on MySpace, Facebook, or any other social networking site for that matter, can weigh in on how those new jeans look. They can also IM you through the mirror. But wait, there’s more… They can also pick out other pieces for you to try by selecting items from the store’s online catalog. Those new items now appear on the touchscreen panel. After you’ve sampled all the pieces, you can actually try on just the ones that your friends say looked the best on you.

There are also RFID and data-mining components in the system that help retailers monitor inventory in real time and collect data that provides valuable insight into customer mindsets, behaviors and evolving needs.

I saw this bit of technology at the National Retail Federation’s Store of the Future – X07 display at their conference in NYC. It’s the brainchild of IT Services company IconNicholson and they call it “Social Retailing”. Clearly, IconNicholson understands that today’s youth is hyper-connected and extremely social. They are always traveling in a group, either physically, or virtually via phones and IM. They also understand that tech-savvy young consumers can be compulsive shoppers who look for validation and approval by their social groups for their purchase decisions, especially regarding soft lines.

“Social retailing is a concept that evolved out of our work building
personas based on youth shopping needs, behaviors and current technology
trends,” says Rachael McBrearty, VP Creative Strategy. “The demonstrations in X07 provide retailers with a vision for how they can reach the audience at the center of the social computing craze seen in websites like YouTube and MySpace, to connect in-store shopping with the online world in a way that is new, entertaining — and completely relevant.”

It’s Facebook meets the Mall and it’s a capability that is available using today’s technology. There’s bound to be a fair amount of complex code behind the scenes to make this work, but it clear to me that the retailer that pulls off social media shopping and couples it with IT systems will have quite the competitive advantage.

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