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EBay envisions a world filled with mobile-enabled shoppable windows

November 22, 2013

The Toms virtual storefront

EBay wants to scale up its Connected Glass program at the national and even international level, enabling consumers around the world to touch a glass window and shop products, with purchases completed from a mobile phone.

From an initial pilot in New York City with Kate Spade earlier this year, the strategy has been expanded to the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall, where virtual storefronts are in place for Sony, Rebecca Minkoff and Toms. Starting this week, mall shoppers are able to walk up to one of the glass panels, click or swipe it with their fingers to browse products, add items to a shopping cart and push the shopping cart to a mobile phone to checkout.

“The Kate Spade program went really well,” said Healey Cypher, head of retail innovation at eBay, San Jose. “It went so well that we are looking at this initiative as the first step in really scaling up this technology.

“The digital storefront is the first in our connected glass program,” he said. “What eBay is really interested in is bringing our connected commerce take on the world into the physical environment.

“With the digital storefronts, we are very interested in looking at what this look like on a national or even international level.”

The digital storefronts in the Westfield mall are the result of a partnership between eBay and Westfield Labs.

Rethinking underutilized assets
EBay views the shoppable windows as an important part of its strategy to change the perception of the brand from an auction site to one that powers omnichannel commerce and payments solutions for retailers.

The company hopes additional malls and retailers will sign on. From the retailer’s perspective, the goal is for retailers to recognize that the shoppable windows enable them to extend their footprint and get in front of new customers without having to open a new store.

For example, none of the merchants involved in the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall program have physical storefronts in the mall.

Retailers are also able to gather meaningful data about shoppers as the digital storefronts include an infrared web that extends 15 feet in front, so it can measure how many shoppers walk by or stop to look at the screen as well as how many browse, add products to a cart and ultimately make a purchase.

For malls, virtual storefronts enable them to take underutilized assets – glass panels – and turn them into an engaging experience for shoppers that adds utility and excitement.

Bridging online, offline shopping
The Toms and Rebecca Minkoff shoppable windows measure 10 feet by 10 feet while the Sony one is 10 feet by 20 feet.

Using the existing glass in the mall, the windows are made shoppable by applying projection film on the inside of the glass, which takes the projection and pushes it to the front of the glass using an HD display. Touch foil is also applied to the glass, turning it into an interactive touch screen.

In additional, induction speakers are used to vibrate the glass so that it produces sounds when shoppers click or otherwise interact with the screen.

“Why this is interesting is that it is providing a completely new way for consumers to engage with these brands in a way that interesting, it makes moments of inspiration instantly shoppable and it is really, really fun,” Mr. Cypher said.

“It is the first time this has ever been done in the commerce world – taking the existing glass in the mall and turning it into this incredibly interactive touch screen,” he said.

“This is a way to infuse technology in the physical world and bring a lot of the best technologies from online into that physical world.”

Mobile plays an important role in the strategy, first by enabling a secure way for shoppers to complete their purchases.

To complete a purchase, shoppers can either enter in their phone number and receive a text message to complete payment on their mobile phone or enter in a short code URL and complete the purchase on their mobile device.

Shoppers will be able to have their Sony purchases delivered within the same day and next day for Rebecca Minkoff purchases. Toms is offering free shipping on purchases made via the virtual storefronts.

Mobile is also important because it is key driver of consumers’ changing expectations when it comes to how they shop.

“The fact that we have this mobile device in our pocket all the time, in our hands, which we can get anything we want, it is immediate gratification, it is frictionless, it is seamless, it is beautiful,” Mr. Cypher said.

“It starts to change our expectations for everything, including the physical world,” he said. “So if you can create an experience that has all of those things, it is really speaking to what consumers want today and how in charge consumers really are when it comes to shopping.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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