Evolving the shopping experience

exclusivecontenttescoI noticed something different about an ad in the Telegraph yesterday by UK supermarket chain Tesco, advertising its price-drop campaign – an offer of exclusive content if you “interact with this ad” via your smartphone and an app called Blippar.

The ad is part of an integrated advertising campaign in which Blippar plays a central role.

I came across UK-based Blippar only a few weeks ago. The company describes itself as “an image recognition/tracking platform for brand to consumer interaction.” As with those ubiquitous QR codes you see popping up everywhere, you use the Blippar app to view an ad using the camera on your iPhone or Android device and receive an instant response whether a web link, video, coupon, or perhaps a 3D product experience or augmented reality game. “You won’t know what until you blipp,” says the company.

The similarity to QR codes is purely in how you use your smartphone and its camera, though, as this promo Blippar video on YouTube illustrates.

I tried the Blippar Android app with the Tesco ad. Not sure how my experience was, in reality; the app is in beta so I expect my experience isn’t how it will eventually be. Blippar says one more Android beta version is coming, implying a full release version soon.

This is an interesting development in the retail landscape where economic realities mean that keen pricing and measurable value for money are two of the top new customer loyalty metrics for many people. It illustrates that innovation is alive and well in a market also dominated by consumer demand for ways to shop that reflect high experiential expectations in contemporary society.

Tesco is one of the leading-edge experimenters in this regard (think of what they’ve been doing with QR codes in South Korea, for instance). Yet they’re not alone – there’s plenty of envelope-pushing going on:

  • Upmarket retailer John Lewis says it plans to become the first to offer free wifi access to customers in all its stores, reports Brand Republic. The retailer says the initiative fits in with its ‘Never knowingly undersold’ commitment, because wifi access will allow customers to surf the web to compare prices against its competitors. The service has been trialled in its Peter Jones store in London’s Sloane Square this week and a spokeswoman says the retailer hopes it will be rolled out to all stores by Christmas.
  • Tesco, too, is trialling free wifi in its UK supermarkets, says the FT. It would mean that customers will be able to compare prices and read product reviews as they shop. Tesco is currently experimenting with the wifi service in four stores, said the FT. Mike McNamara, Tesco’s chief information officer, said that if this was successful, it could be rolled out quickly elsewhere. “My guess is it will go to all stores,” he said.
  • The House of Fraser department store chain has opened a concept store in Aberdeen, Scotland, that contains no products for sale, just computers through which you can “relax and browse online” and buy products for home delivery. The Telegraph reports that the  concept store is a key plank of the company’s “multi-channel” strategy, to attract customers that either don’t live close enough to a big town with a department store, or are without a broadband connection at home. The Telegraph’s report notes that rival Debenhams is installing 650 internet kiosks in its department stores to allow shoppers who find a product is out of stock to order the goods to be delivered to their home or the shop.
  • In the US, retail conglomerate Walmart launched My Local Walmart, a Facebook page that lets the retailer’s roughly nine million Facebook fans follow what is happening at their local stores. It covers about 3,500 Walmart outlets and will send alerts to fans about new products and discounts, Reuters reports. “With early Walmarts, customers would walk in and ask the store manager to get a product,” said Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer of Walmart. “This is going to allow this kind of communication at national scale. Stores become more relevant on a local level because of interaction with customers.” Facebook fans who sign up to the new page will get about two messages a week from their local store at first, Quinn added. Alerts may be triggered by local events such as a high school football game or weather, he said. “A national message is sometimes not relevant,” Quinn said. “We can now say we have sunscreen in the south and snow boots in the north.” My Local Walmart also will have a role in this year’s holiday shopping season, especially on the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers line up early for deals, he added. Shoppers will be able to download maps of their local store, showing them where specific merchandise will be in their store. (Will this come to Asda, the supermarket-chain Walmart subsidiary in the UK, I wonder?)

What a great time to be a shopper, especially with a mobile device!

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