At the Digital Marketing Conference

Retailers Harness Digital Media for In-Store Experiences, Product Sampling

Also Re-evaluating How to Deliver the Sunday Circular Through Mobile, Web

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NEW YORK ( -- When it comes to retail spaces, marketers have perhaps the best opportunity to tie digital-marketing experiences to physical-marketing experiences. And marketers are experimenting with morphing circulars into mobile formats, implementing social media into in-store experiences and using technology to promote product sampling. In some cases, these technologies can be considered media in their own right.
Kevin Ertell and Tom Nicholson
Kevin Ertell and Tom Nicholson Credit: Scott Gries

"We're very focused on the three categories of media: proprietary media, things they own like website customer lists; earned media, things in market where people are talking and acting as influencers, like blogs and message boards; and paid media. ... But the metrics are difficult and internal structure of client and agency haven't lent themselves to that," said Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic, who is working on setting up WPP's digital capability for Dell. Mr. Kaufman was one of the members of a panel at this morning's Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference titled "Retail in Detail: Where the Digital World Meets the Physical World."

'Social shopping'
Jerry Courtney, group manager of corporate multimedia at Target, echoed that challenge: "Technology enables you to measure so much that you need to start personalizing your ROI. It's hard to say, 'That was good, but was it better than X?'"

Tom Nicholson, CEO of IconNicholson, said the industry is moving "from an advertising-driven world to a marketing-driven world." He cited a "social-shopping" technology that his agency developed and noted the creation of it cost less than a one-page ad in The New York Times.

It was an in-store experience created for designer Nanette Lepore in Bloomingdale's in which customers could try on clothing and send video messages to friends' PCs and mobile devices for peer approval before buying. Those friends can also recommend other pieces to try on and customers in the store can try on virtual holograms of outfits.

He noted that much of the talk is about how brands can create entertainment value -- either on their own or by financing entertainment through advertising models. "Creating entertainment is something we've traditionally done. ... Today is moving more toward providing service and things that help your audience, or customer base," Mr. Nicholson said. When he realized that he had slipped and said audience, he suggested that was actually a better term -- that brands were starting to attract audiences.

Try before you buy
Kevin Ertell, VP of e-business at Borders, talked about how the company is taking its website in-house from Amazon. He also talked about how Borders is implementing technology in its stores, with product-demo areas, CD-burning areas and recipe files where customers can come in, print out a sample recipe from a cookbook and try it out before purchasing the full book.

One tough issue retailers face is getting the company and associates on board for the technologies they implement -- and the up keep of those in-store experiences.

The electronic kiosks and in-store technology experiences are "as important as the cash registers," Mr. Ertell said. Schematic's Mr. Kaufman pointed out that there needs to be a measure of continuing value to the customer, and that in-store technologies need to be considered more than just a promotional gimmick -- even if it does nab a lot of PR initially.

Target's Mr. Courtney said his company is experimenting with the circular, that Sunday morning staple, and whether it could be a mobile property. "It's just a matter of what format does it come to you in and how easy is it to use at the point of purchase?" he said.
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