- Housewares retailer Crate and Barrel is working with customer identification and remarketing services provider CloudTags on a single-store pilot program that allows customers to carry around a "Mobile Tote" — a store-provided tablet for scanning product barcodes for more information, as well as searching items and adding them to a wishlist.
- There is no fee and no sign-in to the tablet necessary: However, customers who provide their email addresses can send themselves a list of items they would like to buy now or later, or if they decide to purchase while still in Crate and Barrel, they can access an exclusive Mobile Tote checkout line, and request a sales associate to gather the items for them.
- The pilot is running at the Crate and Barrel in the Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, IL, and follows after CloudTags launched a similar program for British home furniture retailers Heal's.
Crate and Barrel's pilot program is all about enabling an omnichannel shopping experience. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different retailers, however. Some have begun linking and coordinating in-store, online and mobile shopping interfaces and experiences, but they also have hit walls in some cases as they have lacked enough data (or the right data) on customers to add more value to this coordinated approach.
With hurdles still to overcome, most retailers remain in an experimental phase, especially in their efforts to somehow coordinate mobile search and shopping trends with in-store visits. They might do that by offering mobile-specific coupons and offers to shoppers using their mobile devices to search products and prices while in a brick-and-mortar locations, or via other efforts.
In comparison to those efforts, Crate and Barrel's pilot program is refreshing simplely. The store (or, rather, CloudTags) provides a tablet for shoppers so they feel they are getting treated to something right from the start. It's true that customers often have their own phones and tablets in hand as they shop, but getting a different device handed to them for free (at least while they stay in the store) could have a way of rebooting their expectations for the shopping experience they are embarking on.
For now, it's an experiment like all the rest, but as brick-and-mortar stores look at ways to enhance the shopping experience using new technology, retailers could do worse than simply giving them a new gadget to play with for a while during their visit.