Ever since first browsing the aisles at Barnes and Noble to sample books that I was ordering from Amazon on my iPhone, I've wondered why retail hasn't yet evolved from having an online presence that is separate from brick and mortar to having them sync'd together into one experience. It's been a completely separate push from the constant work that's done to optimize their brick and mortar locations.
We all know that the Apple Store has done some remarkable things at retail, one of them being the ability to buy an item using your phone, pick it up and walk out the door without ever speaking to an employee. Which is great if you have the chutzpah required to actually do it … my guilty conscience would do unspeakable things to me if I ever tried.
Beyond Apple, however, it seems like retail has remained fairly stagnant and completely isolated from the Internet. Which is why I was interested to see that Neiman Marcus (of all places) is dipping it's toes into the brick & mortar & digital waters with a mobile app that's made to connect customers to sales associates, 24/7:
Though online shopping has undergone multiple transformations over the past two decades, the same can not be said for brick-and-mortar retail. Shoppers are still brought in using approximately the same marketing tactics (think direct mail catalogs, window displays, seasonal sales). Product is still refreshed at the same rates and customers still line up and check out, with few exceptions, at cash registers.
Signature, a mobile app company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping assistant,” is looking to reengineer the way consumers shop in stores — namely, the stores of upscale clothing retailers. The San Francisco-based startup has partnered with Neiman Marcus to develop a custom iPhone app to better facilitate communications between stores and customers.
The app, called NM Service, is currently being piloted at four Neiman Marcus locations: San Francisco, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Dallas, Texas.
It has two interfaces: one for shoppers and one for sales associates. Shoppers are able to able to browse event schedules, new arrivals and promotions. As they browse, they can favorite products and even arrange for them to be placed in a dressing room ahead of arrival, Signature CEO David Hegarty tells Mashable. They can also make appointments and leave messages for associates, and see which ones are on the floor. A built-in QR code reader lets them scan signage for trend and product information displayed in-store.
It's a small step, but could signify the start of some very cool and very welcome changes to retail.
Also, my apologies for using the word "cyberspace" in the title of this post.