Retailers tap digital tools

28 November 2011

NEW YORK: Retailers such as Macy's, Home Depot and Best Buy are using a wide range of digital tools as they seek to provide a more integrated service to consumers both online and offline.

Macy's, the department store chain, has given tablets to many of its sales teams, enabling them to search for products and show shoppers items which may not be available in their specific branch.

As well as making heightened use of QR codes, Macy's is also offering free Wi-Fi, allowing people utilising smartphones, slates and similar gadgets the chance to compare prices and conduct research.

"All I care about is that they are engaging with the Macy's brand - whether they choose to do that online, on the desktop or on their mobile device while walking the store," Martine Reardon, Macy's EVP, marketing and advertising, told USA Today.

"I think the customer loves both experiences - loves to shop online and absolutely loves to come in the store. You want to feel the energy of the holidays."

Wal-Mart, the biggest US retailer, has recently launched new tablet applications, and is handing visitors to an early glimpse of future in-store deals, as part of a cross-channel approach.

"Customers can shop Wal-Mart when, where and how they choose," Ravi Jariwala, Wal-Mart's public relations director, said, adding that the goal was to give them a "seamless experience".

Elsewhere, Home Depot, the DIY chain, has given out 30,000 Motorola mobile computers containing barcode scanners and cameras to 2,000 stores, letting staff check product details and complete transactions.

"It not only makes us more efficient, but also enables us to take our customer service to the next level," said Cara Kinzey, Home Depot's information technology chief.

As other retailers bring the digital world into bricks and mortar outlets, Best Buy, the electronics chain, has taken the opposite route, creating a "virtual" store in CityVille, a game on Facebook.

During the first iteration of this scheme, which ran in August, Best Buy accrued 1m new Facebook fans, and although measuring the impact on footfall in bricks and mortar stores is not simple, online traffic levels improved greatly.

"While we are still evaluating performance, I'm excited that our programs are driving an unprecedented amount of traffic to from Facebook and are continuing to scale the engagement with our Fan page," Alix Hart, Best Buy's senior director of digital marketing, said.

Data sourced from USA Today/Smart Planet; additional content by Warc staff