One of the major difficulties for retailers both large and small is knowing how best to divide budget and work between the bricks-and-mortar and online spaces. Online retail draws no foot traffic, whilst bricks-and-mortar retail demands an awful lot more money and space.
This article from Canada's Montreal Gazette explains how the most innovative retail brands are combining the two. "A twin helix of traditional window shopping and anti-social e-commerce, these small displays feature photos or samples of products that, when scanned with a smartphone, redirect shoppers to an online purchase site."
The article gives various global examples such as the virtual store launched by Well.ca in Toronto, where subway travellers were invited to download an app to their smartphones that turns these devices into virtual shopping bags, enabling them to scan QR codes beneath product images (on a representation of a shop shelf) to then purchase on the spot and ship the goods to their home. In February PayPal launched a similar pseudo-storefront in Singapore whilst in Philadelphia commuters were able to buy Peapod (online grocery chain) products from billboards in train stations.
This virtual window shopping means customers can avoid the frustration of being harassed by sales assistants - and for the brand, it reduces the need to pay for staff. Although the technology is still in its infancy the combination of m-commerce and old-fashioned shopfronts is set to be big news in the next few years as the online/offline retail industry becomes even more innovative.
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