Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ralph Lauren takes window shopping to a new level

Since sitting through my Advertising & Promotions class yesterday, with a guest speaker discussing interactive advertising, the changing role of the consumer in marketing has been on my mind. I started to think about how this applied to retailing, and instantly could recall many examples. The consumer is now an integral part of the retailing strategy of stores like Apple and Starbucks where the interaction with the consumer is critical. In fact, any store that incorporates experience into their RVP, is essentially integrating their consumer into their sales strategy. I decided to make this the topic of my blog, and started to search for stories to back me up, when I stumbled upon this gem about Ralph Lauren.

In the summer of 2006, Ralph Lauren brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘window shopping’, by installing touch-sensitive technology into their New York flagship store windows, allowing interactive window shopping 24/7. Consumers who tapped on the window pane at an item that they liked, would soon see the Polo.com website projected onto the window, featuring that item. They could then actually purchase the item right there and then, or opt to have their selection emailed to them for purchase at home later on.

The company introduced this strategy to coincide with the debut of their Wimbledon Tennis line. Since, they’ve used it with other line introductions like their Ski Gear line the following winter in Chicago, and the following summer in London, again paired with the Wimbledon tournament. Whenever this futuristic window is introduced, it comes in short spurts, likely to build hype around the store. It also comes in with additional sales channels, like kiosks at Wimbledon tournaments in addition to their store and online purchase points.

While this strategy seemed a little useless to me at first (why would someone purchase from a window online when they’re already at the store?) I realized that this is multi-channel retailing at its best! The company is integrating their different sales channels together, and at the same time integrating the consumer into the store experience. The windows are a call to the website and have the potential to drive sales there. The windows are also a more aggressive call for the consumer to come into the store, and make their purchase there. In addition, by creating an interactive window-shopping experience, the consumer becomes more engaged, and Ralph Lauren adds another element to their RVP with the experience component strengthened.

Results for this program have never been released, but the fact that it was recreated twice after its induction leads me to believe that it’s done okay. And even if it isn’t driving sales like crazy, it’s certainly not hurting them. It’s introducing yet another way to buy, making the shopper’s experience a memorable one, and at the very least it’s creating a lot of buzz and media airtime.

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