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Bon-Ton Department Stores leverage NFC to enhance shoe shopping

Consumers can tap an NFC-enabled phone on the sole of a shoe to find out if their shoe is in stock, and if it is not, they can find the nearest store that does have it or order it on their phone. Bon-Ton worked with Thinaire to deploy the technology.

“The goal is to turn display shoes into a form of engageable media using radio frequency technology, which delivers a marketing message at a point of purchase decision-making,” said Patrick Meyer, chief marketing officer at Thinaire, New York.

“When a shopper is looking at display shoes in a department store, their No. 1 priority once they’ve found a shoe they love, is to determine if the store has the shoe in their size!” he said.

“Using NFC, Bon-Ton is able to deliver an instant message through the display shoe to the shopper’s phone letting them know what shoe-sizes are available in that particular store, which nearby locations have the desired size and also providing the opportunity to purchase the shoe via Bon-Ton’s mcommerce site.”

Bon-Ton Department Stores operates 273 department stores under the names of Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Herberger’s, Elder-Beerman and Younkers in 25 states in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains.

Mobile shoes
Bon-Ton has added NFC labels to the soles of their shoes so that when consumers tap them with their phones they can access additional information.

Consumers can easily find out if their preferred size and color are in stock. If it is not, they can find the closest store that does have it in stock, or they can purchase it online from the store’s mobile Web site.

The technology is now available at more than 30 Bon-Ton stores in 11 states. Earlier this year, Bon-Ton installed in-store signage to notify its customers of the new technology.

Before applying the Thinaire technology to the shoe department, Bon-Ton tested it in the cosmetics departments with campaigns that featured Estee Lauder and Clinique.

With showrooming and mobile commerce in general growing in popularity, retailers are struggling to draw consumers into the bricks-and-mortar location. By adding features like NFC capabilities, retailers can enhance the in-store experience and bridge the connection between offline and online shopping.

NFC troubles
One of the challenges in deploying an NFC technology is that Apple has yet to roll out NFC-enabled phones. Since a majority of smartphone owners have iOS devices, this means that those consumers would not be able to access the feature with their phone.

Many experts do not expect NFC to ever really take off (see story).

However, Bon-Ton has also placed universal-use kiosks in its stores to let consumers without NFC-enabled phones obtain availability information about shoes.

“NFC is an RF technology, now being installed in every smartphone and smart-tablet manufactured with the exception of the iOS platform,” Mr. Meyer said.

“It seemed like a natural fit to create a shopper-assist strategy that included a mobile engagement technology that is becoming ubiquitous.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York