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Mobile revolutionizes window displays as retailers look beyond QR codes

As marketers increasingly turn to window displays to boost mobile engagement, connected glass and social media are pushing mobile bar codes out of the picture for retailers.

2013 was a significant year for retailers in leveraging mobile as a part of the in-store shopping experience, and brands such as Ted Baker and Kate Spade have now been betting on window displays and digital storefronts to capture the attention of the mobile shopper. Additionally, location-based offers including iBeacon are influencing how marketers set up window displays.

“Technology is constantly evolving and we have seen new forms, such as iBeacon come to the forefront over the past year,” said Mikhail Damiani, CEO/cofounder at Blue Bite, New York.

“However, at the end of the day technology is secondary to the consumer experience and value delivered through that technology,” he said. “We look at technologies as doorways to an experience, and what is behind the doors is more important than which door the consumer chooses.”

Window engagement?
The role of mobile for window displays is not necessarily new, but it is more significant for retailers this year in luring in in-store traffic through hefty holiday window investments.

The move towards mobile window displays builds on the importance of mobile in-store experiences that retailers have built up this year.

In the past, many of these mobile-enabled windows relied on QR codes as a way to let consumers shop looks straight from a display.

However, the hype around mobile bar codes has significantly died down in the past year, and more marketers are trying new methods of engagement.

For example, two years ago eBay partnered with designers including Jonathan Adler to plaster QR codes on a holiday storefront (see story).

Now, eBay’s efforts are more focused on enabling mobile sales from digital touchscreens.

EBay is letting consumers shop by touching a glass window at the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall and at Rebecca Minkhoff, Toms and Sony virtual storefronts. Essentially consumers find an item from a glass panel in the bricks-and-mortar stores and can then push the shopping cart to their mobile device to finish the checkout process (see story).

EBay partnered with Kate Spade on a similar mobile storefront experience earlier this year.

Beacons and location-based coupons have also made a big splash this year, primarily driven by Apple’s launch of iBeacon in its iOS 7 operating system.

Promoting these initiatives through window displays is a logical way for retailers to get the word out about their in-store efforts with location-based offers.

At the same time, the growth of mediums used in window displays shows how retailers are making a bigger push to create seamless, multichannel experiences.

“I think marketers are quickly realizing that mobile enables them to bring together independent assets and media initiatives, allowing them to all work together,” Mr. Damiani said.

“For example, a brand can now weave together a window display, mobile Web, social media and a retail promotion with the help of mobile,” he said.

Social is mobile
Retailers are also stepping up their mobile efforts to build up their social presences.

For example, British retailer Ted Baker has rolled out an interactive digital display in the store windows of locations in New York, Tokyo and London that encourage consumers to take a selfie of themselves. The pictures are then approved by employees on an iPad app and appear as falling snowflakes in a digital display (see story).

According to Jeff Gunderman, president of Eye Corp Media, New York, the challenge for retailers with these types of campaigns is that they generate limited engagement.

There are also obstacles in educating consumers on how mobile works within window displays.

For example, augmented reality campaigns require multiple steps for consumers to participate in a digital experience, and near-field communications is not mainstream enough for retailers to use when targeting a large group of mobile shoppers.

At the same time, QR codes are become more standard for consumers, but may be waning for marketers.

Eye claims that 88 percent of the campaigns that the company runs include QR codes, eight to ten percent use NFC and the remaining portion are executed through SMS.

Regardless of technology that a retailer uses to engage with window shoppers, the goal is to ultimately drive engagement with consumers looking for both entertainment and the ability to shop.

“Social is increasingly gaining ground because of the power consumers have to influence their social circles,” Mr. Gunderman said.

“Second, mobile is important as retailers are starting to embrace consumers use of mobile to research products and help make buying decisions in store,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York