Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Shopping is Apps Enabled!

Originally published Nov. 16, 2012.
Web sites and email notifications are now a staple of hoilday shopping. Specialized mobile apps aren’t new, but they become more sophisticated each year. This year is no exception.

There are a couple of basic kinds of apps for holiday shopping. There are the aggregator sites like Black (specializes in ads) or Coupon Deals (specializes in coupons and offers) and about a zillion others. There are also the apps from individual retailers like Macy’s.

The new Macy’s app for iPhone and Android has gotten a lot of buzz. You can download it from a link on the Macy’s site by texting to their short code number. I tried it and it worked like a charm, much easier than having to locate it on iTunes. I was also able to sign up for updates at the same time. Warning; it only works on the iPhone5 or equivalent operating system. I tried it out, and it does everything advertised (pun intended; it is full of promotions!).

As you can see from the menu, the Macy’s app will do pretty much anything the shopper needs, either while planning a shopping trip or while in the store. I think the coolest thing is the instore navigation map, now only available for the Herald Square store. It will not only tell you where you are and the location of items you are looking for, it has the capability of offering or highlighting specials. The software site gives examples for not only retail, but also other large and often confusing venues like hospitals and airports. The Museum of Natural History has had its app since 2010 and its usefulness is obvious.

I like the idea that retailers are trying to improve the shopping experience. Any improvement is welcome. The importance to retailers is made obvious by WSJ data. It shows that over $100 of the per customer $400 spent during the Black Friday weekend was spent online. That means almost $300 was still spent in stores. I can’t tell whether “weekend” includes Cyber Monday or not. However, it’s clear that the apps are set up to guide shoppers through the holidays and the instore navigation systems have a potential far beyond that.

On the questionnable gift front, at least to me, is the sweater Macy's is offering that has a personal video viewer on the sleeve.

According to Recom Group, the developer of the technology, The fashion video tag slides into a pocket on the sleeve, which makes it waterproof, and comes with software that allows users to convert any YouTube or personal video. It holds up to two hours of content. The organic LED plays continuous video nonstop for 8 to 10 hours from a single charge.

Oh, well. At least it's a conversation piece. Happy shopping!

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