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Galeries Lafayette eases store navigation for shoppers with app

Galeries Lafayette, an upscale French department store in Paris, launched a mobile application with an interactive navigation guide that helps shoppers find items more easily.

Customers using a Bluetooth connection can bookmark departments they plan to visit on three-dimensional maps to mark their path ahead of a store visit. It is the latest example of how department stores are leveraging mobile technology as it plays a growing role in how customers engage with brands.

“I totally agree with the direction of the application,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director with Boston-based Yankee Group. “It’s critically important to provide value-added service such as indoor turn-by-turn directions. Macy’s led the way last year in their flagship store.

“I have been disappointed that more malls have not taken advantage of the mobile customer engagement opportunities available with the latest technologies such as beacons and GPS,” she said.

Mixed results
Although department stores have tried to leverage mobile, amid declining foot traffic and increased competition from online and specialty retailers, results have been mixed.

Sears, for instance, equipped store associates with iPads to enhance interactions with in-store customers and introduced a new app feature called Store Assist that lets users send a message to store associates.

Nordstrom is consistently named as an example of a department store that has leveraged mobile in a way that makes sense for its audience. The retailer updated its iPhone app with product sharing via SMS and user reviews.

Macy’s also has a strong reputation in mobile, using a combination of apps, augmented reality, QR codes, SMS and the mobile Web to enhance customer engagements.

But mobile is not a magic bullet for reviving the department store model, a century old approach to retailing. It is simply another form of interaction with customers who need a compelling reason to buy, according to experts.

The key advantage of mobile is that with the right technology, merchants can dynamically try out offers and discounts to consumers who check in to their physical and online stores.

Mobile also can trigger immediate opportunities for consumers to buy from print and online media of all types, taking the department store to the customer whenever and however they encounter it.

While mobile is important to shoppers, it needs to be part of an overall strategy that is relevant and meaningful to a targeted audience.

Personalizing shopping
Turn-by-turn shopping directions could be the beginning of a move in traditional department stores and malls to greater personalizing of the shopping experience.

“Down the road, I would like to see more interactive services such as rewards and coupons,” said Yankee Group’s Ms. Kingstone. “Many malls have this today, but they aren’t as personalized as they can be in the future.

“There is a huge opportunity to partner with the individual stores to empower cross-channel shopping experience and potentially mini-sites for communications via SMS that cover the complete shopping journey, based on location and intent.”

Galeries Lafayette’s app is an example of how technology can enhance the shopping experience in a large traditional department store.

“It can help shoppers navigate through what can seem to be a very daunting experience – finding exactly what you want,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner, Retail Systems Research, Miami. “It relies on some very broad suppositions, that the merchandise is exactly where the application says it is and that consumers don’t mind being tracked within the store. If those problems are solved, it’s pretty awesome.

“What we have to determine, and I don’t know the answer, is ‘Does the improved experience overcome consumer privacy concerns?’” Will consumers be willing to trade privacy for ease of navigation?

“I think making the leap from simple directions to O2O marketing is a big one.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.