BrainTrust Query: Polo’s e-commerce store windows…innovation or a strategic misfire?

Discussion
Aug 15, 2006
Laura Davis-Taylor

By Laura Davis-Taylor, Founder and Principal, Retail Media Consulting
(www.retailmediaconsulting.com)


The industry is buzzing with the news that a NYC Polo Ralph Lauren store is now featuring “payment at the glass.” Shoppers can browse and order merchandise 24/7 by touching product images on the store’s display window and swiping their credit card on a wall mounted card reader. To enable this, a projector beams Ralph Lauren’s latest shirts, skirts and pants onto holographic screens on the store’s window, while a “thin touch foil” mounted on the glass powers the touch screen. Shoppers can select size and color with motion selection, and a keyboard appears to punch in delivery addresses.

Inspired by the movie “Minority Report,” the window shopping display is in test from August 7th until September 10th. It is in support of a US Open promotion that will be supplemented by a virtual store on site at the Arthur Ashe stadium. The stadium will also have three free standing kiosks with touch screen technology throughout.

A Levi’s store in London initiated a similar project back in 1998, but the goals were to attract attention, motivate fun interaction and lure shoppers into the store to shop. It featured a selection of interactive toys that included sound mixers and simple drum machines that mimicked the popular Drum Mania and Dance Dance Revolution arcade games. The interface was triggered by simple actions such as slapping the bulletproof glass and became quite popular at their flagship store on Regent Street.

Discussion Question: Will shoppers take Polo’s e-commerce store windows seriously, or is this technology best suited for educational and promotional
purposes?


Kudos to Ralph Lauren for testing a new, innovative technology with the goal of understanding consumer response for future learnings. Also worthy of merit
is the way the promotion extends into the actual US Open event facility, a true example of initiating a “multiple touchpoint strategy.”


However, I must question if the initial test would have been more successful if it was built as a fun attraction mechanism for generating store traffic.
The reality of consumers standing on a crowded street to shop via a clumsy ecommerce process is suspect. Why would one choose this over walking in the store to touch, feel and
try on the product for immediate purchase or going online to buy in privacy? I may be missing something, but my experience with consumer research tells me that this is a cumbersome
process that may be a “cure for no disease.”


In contrast, as a good industry friend pointed out, maybe the point wasn’t to test consumer behavior but to create brand buzz. Clearly, the media value
has been stellar and one cannot argue that the market perception of Ralph Lauren may have shifted somewhat.

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13 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Polo’s e-commerce store windows…innovation or a strategic misfire?"


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Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 6 months ago

This is a new and improved technology. Nothing more and nothing less. Many retailers have computer screens set up in the store that enable a customer to order product not found in the store. What Polo is doing is a bigger more advanced computer screen. Kudos for showing technological innovation.

Bill Gerba
Guest
Bill Gerba
14 years 6 months ago

I think Laura and Mark are spot-on here. The store window display was certainly not designed to increase in-store sales by allowing shoppers to browse after store hours; it was installed (successfully, imo) as a publicity stunt to draw traffic and create buzz.

Now the kiosks at the US Open, on the other hand, *are* intended to drive additional sales, and they will probably do quite well, thanks to the extra publicity generated by the window display. That metro publications like Newsday and the Daily Candy (who reach a pretty fair number of Polo-clad Open goers) bothered to write about a merchandising strategy tells me that Polo definitely knew what it was doing.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

It sounds like fun…and not intrusive, since you have to opt in. Fun is in short supply in retail. Two thumbs up.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
14 years 6 months ago

Yes, I agree with everyone. The publicity is positive, everyone will want to take a look and when there, many will buy (probably inside the store). Everyone thinks they know Polo so why not shake things up a little? They do not want to become boring or too predictable. This is not only fun but it provides an opportunity to learn and to figure out other applications for this technology.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 6 months ago

Great publicity move but I’m sure the total sales from it will be quite small. If somebody wants something online they can do it from their PC or phone. I doubt the idea will have long-term appeal, but for now it’s a smart way to get free advertising.

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

I’m with Paula on this one. Seems like a fun toy – good for one or two interactions before its practical limitations become evident to the shopper.

One concern is privacy and safety – I’m not keen on tapping in my credit card number on a store window with my back to the street.

As for the “Minority Report” form factor of this kiosk-under-glass, I like it fine. The best interface is no interface at all. This one sounds as minimized as present technology allows, and cool-looking, to boot.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 6 months ago

Everyone’s right, it’s all those things, but it’s not just a stunt. If you can sell clothing via catalog and internet, you can sell it anywhere. But the technology is just getting started — “window shopping” will make real sense for some retailers and products. It’s the ultimate impulse purchase generator.

Brad Gleeson
Guest
Brad Gleeson
14 years 6 months ago

Depending on the quality of the implementation, this concept could work on many levels. The most critical aspect is the quality of the user experience. If it is fast and colorful and simple and fun, it will succeed in attracting attention and can help establish a positive brand affinity. If people actually buy stuff, it’s a bonus. Slowly, as consumers become more comfortable with these kinds of technologies, it becomes easier and less risky and perhaps even strategically imperative, for retailers to plan and deploy them. Each step forward is a validation of what came before.

Tracy Gibson
Guest
Tracy Gibson
14 years 6 months ago

I agree with most of the posts that this is a fun, new, innovative way to draw more traffic to the store, or rather the store window, however, I don’t believe this will increase sales for Polo. People love gimmicks but the idea of pulling out my credit card on a street corner just doesn’t sound safe. I don’t even use an ATM after hours! Kiosk shopping on the other hand, especially during an event, sounds like a great idea! Who wants to stand in line and miss one of the matches? If you can order your merchandise, and have it shipped to your home and you won’t have to lug it back with you, that will be a great use of the new technology.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

What would make this perfect is installing a chute from the shop floor to the screen at the window so that once the purchase is made the product can be instantly delivered. Now that would be fun. I can just see it applying to burgers, cokes and even a tall frosty beer so that you can avoid standing in line with all those other people at the stadium. You could turn it into the kind of machine that’s attached to the back of airplane seats and have one in all the grandstands. Oh, the possibilities are endless. Isn’t technology just too too cool?

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Polo Ralph Lauren’s interactive window shopping is a great way to get free publicity. Customers like to try on their clothing choices before they leave the store, so it’s unlikely this can be taken seriously on its own. When new technology is novel and fun why not get free publicity?

Anne Simons
Guest
Anne Simons
14 years 6 months ago

Laura, this reminds me a little of the Zooms Systems iPod vending machines that Apple began installing in various locations a year or so ago. While it seems unlikely that the vending machines will generate significant transactions, they do reinforce Apple’s brand equities of innovation and technological sophistication. The advantage with the vending machines over RL’s ‘shopping window,’ however, is that they offer immediate gratification to buyers

As for RL’s shopping window: it’s a great way to generate buzz and position RL as cutting edge but I doubt they’ll generate many transactions for all the reasons that previous commentators have suggested.

T Gibson
Guest
T Gibson
14 years 6 months ago

Again, this is fun and innovative. I think it is a great idea! After further evaluation of the concept, I believe it does, indeed, have potential to drive sales. How often do you see something of interest in a store front window but you don’t have the time to stop in? This is in line with online shopping. My fear of using my ATM card is not widespread. If they would mail the items direct, that would keep shopping time to a minimum and we all need more hours added to our day. I think it will catch on.

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