Will this holiday season be a cheerful one for brick-and-mortar retailers? The National Retail Federation certainly thinks so. The retail trade group estimates that nearly half (46%) of younger consumers plan to spend more during the holidays this year, with 66% of adults taking advantage of the deals and promotions being run by retailers around the country.
Behind the scenes, retailers with physical locations are working feverishly to compete against e-commerce giants like Amazon. Technologies that capture historical, location-based data from devices have become the next great hope for brick-and-mortar retailers, even as the physical and online shopping worlds continue to merge.
“We expect to see the use of location data continuing to expand beyond real-time push alerts or ads,” says Brian Handly, CEO of Reveal Mobile, a firm that helps app publishers, media companies and advertisers create better mobile marketing strategies. “The smart use of location data will play an increasing role to level the playing field for retail marketers versus their online competitors this holiday season, and may be the tool they need to survive and thrive in years to come.”
Handly anticipates retailers using location technology to empower consumers at many points in the buying journey this holiday season. He sees retailers increasingly using technology to help shoppers find their way to stores, find items in stores, and find reviews of products. He also sees retailers using mobile technology to enhance the in-store experience with augmented reality and simplified checkout via smartphones.
Here’s how three retail giants are investing in location technologies this holiday shopping season.
Toys R Us: Using augmented reality to move shoppers around stores
Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, Toys R Us has struggled to rebound. The company’s financial woes were only made worse when the toy giants Mattel and Hasbro announced that they would be temporarily slowing shipments. So what does the retailer have in store this holiday season? Augmented reality. Toys R Us is investing in AR content and games based around consumers’ positions inside stores. An AR app was released in October, allowing young shoppers to unlock activities and essentially turning Toys R Us’ physical stores into digital playgrounds. Toys R Us is also rolling out curbside pickup at selected locations, which could help bring together the online and offline shopping worlds, particularly for busy parents who aren’t interested in dealing with long lines.
Target: Investing in online-to-offline programs
Having revamped its stores and cut the prices on many of its products, Target is ready for the holiday season. The company is investing heavily in “pickup at stores” and “ship from store” programs, investing $7 billion over three years in strategies that blend the online and offline shopping experience, along with more streamlined order fulfillment programs. More than half of Target’s total online sales are fulfilled through its “pickup at stores” and “ship from store” programs already, and the company expects that figure to rise to 80% during this year’s holiday rush. Target has also rolled out curbside pickup at 50 locations and same-day delivery in four locations in New York City.
Mall of America: Adding live navigation tools to a branded mobile app
More than 40 million shoppers make their way through the Mall of America each year. In an effort to decrease the hassles associated with shopping in a mall that’s nearly 6 million square feet in size, the company is using Senion’s StepInside technology to add a live navigation feature to its branded mobile app. Visitors who input a destination in the Mall of America’s the app—for example, a specific store or restaurant at the mall—will now get accurate step-by-step directions thanks to improved indoor positioning technologies. The Mall of America has also implemented almost 100 digital directories to give mobile app users a direct connection to a digital concierge who can answer questions in real-time.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.