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Urban Outfitters bolsters foot traffic, marketing opportunities via in-store phone chargers

Apparel and accessories retailer Urban Outfitters is drawing in shoppers in a creative way with its new iPhone charging stations.

Starting this summer, many of the Urban Outfitters stores added charging stations to their stores. The charging tables have ten iPhone chargers that shoppers can use free of charge.

“The demographic group that Urban Outfitters is trying to reach is made up of the people who burn through their smartphone batteries faster than just about any other segment,” said Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, Los Angeles.

“They are texting more, checking Facebook more, Tweeting more and talking more than the older audiences that Urban Oufitters is less likely to want in their stores,” he said. “Charging stations are a perfect way to bring customers from the street into the store.”

Mr. Martin is not affiliated with Urban Outfitters. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Urban Outfitters declined to comment for this story.

Increased traffic
The charging stations have been placed in locations such as the store on 72nd Street and Broadway in New York and in Washington stores.

One of the main benefits of offering a charging station in its stores is the resulting in-store traffic boost.

Passersby who glance at the storefront and see the charging station may be persuaded to come in if their iPhone is running low on battery. Once in the store, these passersby are surrounded by the store’s merchandise and can easily be converted to customers.

The charging station is simply a wooden table with ten iPhone chargers available for free.

The chargers themselves are sold by Urban Outfitters as well, so if a consumer has a great experience with the charger, he or she can buy the charger.

With many retailers worrying about showrooming, any tactic that could bring in shoppers and convince them to stay is a worthwhile move.

Urban Outfitters has engaged in many other mobile efforts in the past.

For example, an executive spoke earlier at eTail West about the importance of engaging consumers via Instagram and Vine (see story).

The retailer also rolled out an ad campaign on the Gothamist mobile site this past December (see story).

Wi-Fi advantage
Urban Outfitters offers in-store Wi-Fi, which paired with the charging stations, gives the retailer an additional way to connect with shoppers.

As shoppers sit at the charging station, they may decide to use Urban Outfitters’ Wi-Fi to check their email. Urban Outfitters then knows that those shoppers are in-store and can target them with promotions and deals.

According to Mr. Martin, connecting in-store customers to Wi-Fi can help Urban Outfitters get more people in the store as well as get those people to buy more products.

For example, Urban Outfitters can offer $15 off a purchase of $100 or more for a customer that checks-in to the store on Facebook. This would then show up in those customers’ friends’ newsfeeds, leading to great publicity for the brand.

Yet, not everyone is convinced that offering phone charging stations is actually a positive move for a retailer such as Urban Outfitters.

“In-store phone charges make more sense for a bar, where you are actually sitting for a period of time,” said Matthew Santone, art director of Resource lab at Resource, Columbus, OH.

“I don’t see the Urban Outfitter crowd being excited about parting from their phones for even a minute,” he said.

“Charging lock boxes are an option, but I’ve only seen them at conferences where power charging is a necessity and not a nice-to-have. If Urban Outfitters could partner with a Duracell and offer in-store wireless power charging, then you have a headline.”

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