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Retale envisions virtual showroom app

BY David Salazar

CHICAGO — The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset is slowly gaining popularity with retailers as a customer engagement tool, and an industry vendor is hoping to capitalize on the trend.

Location-based mobile platform Retale is releasing Retale Virtual Reality (VR) for Oculus Rift this year. Designed to be a VR, location-based shopping companion, it will provide an immersive, 3D environment where customers can shop context-based local offers.
 
Retale is building its Oculus app upon the intuitive retailer, product, and coupon browsing experience it provides on iOS, Android and Apple Watch apps. With VR capability, Retale seeks to add an immersive interface that connects the digital experience with an actual brick-and-mortar one. Users will be able to browse virtual showrooms and researching deals in a virtual world, learn about products in 3D and then add them to their shopping list.
 
Once the user has explored the weekly deals and VR showrooms offered by Retale’s retail partners, they are able to select products or stores that they’re interested in and add them to their shopping list on the Retale mobile app. From there, the mobile app will send a push notification confirming the addition, and users can receive navigation information to guide them to the nearest retail location to purchase their selection.
 
Retailers including J.C. Penney, Lowe’s and Canadian Tire have launched Oculus-based store promotions in recent months. VR innately blends the physical and digital worlds, so it is a natural fit for omnichannel promotions that digitally drive store traffic and purchases. As Oculus Rift and other VR devices become more mainstream in the coming years, expect more retailers and retail IT vendors to take advantage.

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Verizon: Retailers should adjust to ‘Cyber Season’

BY Dan Berthiaume

NEW YORK — Overall retailers had a good 2015 holiday from a digital commerce standpoint, but some patterns changed.

According to the Verizon Retail Index, days that previously had unusual spikes in e-commerce activity, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, now show more normal levels of online traffic and purchase activity. Part of this shift is attributed to the widespread availability of high-speed online connections from consumer mobile devices.
 
“Days such as ‘Cyber Monday’ and ‘Green Monday’ are essentially being kept alive by retailers who only have an e-commerce presence,” said Michele Dupré, group VP of retail, hospitality and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “Effective online engagement by the retail industry and fail-proof website platforms are essential throughout the season.”
 
In addition, Verizon Retail Index analysis shows broadband traffic attributed to e-commerce shopping activity began to taper off by Mon., Jan. 4, dipping dramatically from the New Year’s weekend highs (which ranged from 28-36%) to 12% above average daily levels, followed by 9% above on Tues. (Jan. 5) and 8%by Wed. (Jan. 6). This is a similar year-over-year pattern.
 
However, mobile traffic attributed to m-commerce returned to normal levels by Wed., Jan. 5. Year-over-year, overall mobile traffic was slightly lower than this same time the prior year.
 
New Year’s weekend actually produced higher traffic patterns than Black Friday weekend, reflecting another change in consumer holiday shopping trends.
 
“The message for retailers is don’t give up on your engagement strategies once Christmas arrives,” advised Dupre. “This season’s ‘sneak peek’ promotions in advance of Black Friday appeared to effectively entice consumers and the key is to evaluate these throughout the season to determine a winning formula for capturing wallet share. However, because the season began so early, many promotions started blending together, leaving consumers wondering if they were getting the best deal.”

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Kmart promotes fun, fitness, loyalty

BY Dan Berthiaume

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Kmart is launching a new social media campaign called “Fit in the Fun” that promotes the enjoyment of healthy activities while also engaging members of its Shop Your Way loyalty program.

The program includes a dedicated Fit in the Fun website as well as a #FitintheFun hashtag campaign. In addition, celebrity fitness instructor Jillian Michaels (who has an established relationship with Kmart) offers online tips and also sells branded merchandise on the new site.
 
To promote social engagement, Kmart will reward the first 200 Shop Your Way members who post their wellness-inspired photos or videos to official Kmart social channels (tagging #FitInTheFun #ad and @Kmart) with a $25 gift card. Kmart is also tying the promotion to the brick-and-mortar channel with special Fit in the Fun discounts and Bluelight Specials, as well as free health/wellness giveaways, in stores.
 
Fit in the Fun reflects two growing ominchannel trends. First, retailers of health and wellness products are trying to become more involved in consumers’ daily lives with engagement programs tied to social media and even personal fitness and mobile devices.
 
Second, retailers of all types are increasingly realizing there are many “soft” benefits from social campaigns, such as increased brand awareness and visibility, worth pursuing. And of course driving store traffic and sales is a nice bonus if you can get it.

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