On my radar: Enjoy Xmas, sans Boney M.

2013-11-06 10:00

It’s that time of the year when two distinct shopping tribes emerge: those who flock to malls and those who avoid them at all costs.

The avoiders (and I count myself in this group) are not only crowd phobic, but are hyperallergic to the fabricated festive cheer that engulfs shopping malls at this time of the year.

For me, it’s not so much the garish decorations and fake snow that’s offensive, but the soundtrack malls feel they have to bombard shoppers with: an incessant loop of Christmas carols, with a track or two of Boney M. thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, that brings out a Scrooge-like reaction in many people.

But for the “bah! humbug” shoppers there is light – or rather a touch screen – at the end of the tunnel.

Online shopping is evolving at an incredible rate, and while retailers started out looking at the online vs offline shopping experience as two separate entities, it’s becoming clear that it’s going to be a hybrid of the two that is the new emerging trend.

Online shopping will continue to grow, and increasingly it will service the shopper looking for convenience: replenishing nonperishable groceries, and buying items like homeware, gifts and books.

In a country like South Africa, where clothing sizes are not uniform and where shoppers still like the social and tactile element of shopping, the bricks-and-mortar experience is here to stay.

But the loss of foot traffic, and therefore sales, from online shopping has already begun to affect the bottom line for many retailers.

They not only have to up their game in terms of providing a “retail theatre” experience, but also have to keep a close watch on a new retail trend: the touch screen shoppable window.

UK supermarket chain Tesco was the first retailer to explore the concept of taking the store to the customer.

They allowed customers in South Korea to do their grocery shopping using QR codes while waiting on subway platforms. Since then, this concept has not only spread across the globe, but has evolved, giving traditional retailers sleepless nights.

eBay is taking the lead in this e-tailing journey. A few months ago, they launched a series of “shoppable windows” in New York.

The concept was simple but revolutionary: they set up giant touch screens in the windows of vacant shops.

These screens allowed passers-by to stop and browse through an online catalogue, and if they found an item they wanted, they could buy it immediately using an onscreen QR code and the online payment portal, PayPal.

eBay promised that any purchase would be delivered to an address of your choice within the hour. Having to actually carry shopping bags is soon going to be “so 2010”.

Shoppable windows bridge the gap between the solitary nature of online shopping with the enjoyment of shopping with someone in a public space.

It also speaks to the impulsive shopper (which is why so many people actually enjoy shopping) but then goes one step further and provides the convenience of not having to carry the package around with you.

For the shopper, this is truly a revolutionary digital retail experience.

For brands, this concept opens up a whole new world of possibilities because what shoppable windows (as well as online shopping portals) provide is the luxury of presenting your full stock offering digitally, without having to physically have the stock on your shop floor.

The only people who are not going to embrace this form of hybrid retail are, of course, landlords.

Shoppable windows will allow brands to have a presence in locations without having to commit to long leases, or having to deal with the expense of shop fittings. All those costs will be funnelled into suitable warehousing.

For those wanting to avoid malls festooned with garish decorations and fake snow, you might have to wait a while for these shoppable windows to become more widespread.

But you can console yourself that this is possibly the first festive season you can do all your Christmas shopping without having to listen to one Boney M. Christmas song.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends: www.fluxtrends.com

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