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Macy’s eyes image recognition for better user experiences than QR codes

September 25, 2013

Macy's 2012 Black Friday efforts

NEW YORK – A Macy’s executive at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference revealed that the retailer is using a new image recognition technology this year as an alternative to QR codes.

During the “Get Closer: Mobile is the Closest You Can Get to Your Consumer” session, a Macy’s executive hinted at several different upcoming initiatives that Macy’s is investing more heavily in this year around Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season.

“I think part of what we have not seen of great downloads on is on adoption when you have to go find another app, download an app, then scan the QR code,” said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer at Macy’s, New York.

“Technology is not wonderful – I think that’s where we’re struggling,” she said.

“We’re constantly looking for new technology that will make transition much, much easier. We’re actually doing something new in the holiday time frame with a new technology where it is visual recognition where you’ll be able – if it’s a billboard, if it’s a phone kiosk – if you have downloaded that app, you can wave your mobile device in front of it and what it allows you to do is to get the image of whatever product it is and also give you many other products like it, similar to an algorithm.”

Holiday efforts
The goal behind Macy’s rolling out the image recognition this holiday season is to see what kinds of engagement the new technology will spur.

The technology will also let consumers watch videos in exchange for using the image recognition app.

Ms. Reardon also said that mobile will play a role in Macy’s upcoming Black Friday efforts this year.

Multichannel mobile
According to Ms. Reardon, Macy’s continuously thinks about the different ways to drive engagement and brand discovery across different mediums, but everything always comes back to mobile.

For example, Macy’s is making a hard push to target millennials, and mobile is a way to communicate with consumers in a way that they want to.

Macy’s is also one of the major launch advertisers on Apple’s iTunes Radio, which is geared at reaching millennials.

Ads within iTunes Radio center on promoting discounts, which is a key to why consumers shop with Macy’s.

Despite the focus on millennials, Macy’s also caters mobile to other demographics.

Take TV for example, which tends to target older demographics more effectively.

Macy’s recently rolled out a new television ad campaign that centers around promoting Macy’s mobile app. A call-to-action at the end of the commercial prompts users to text in a keyword to Macy’s short code for a chance at winning a gift card.

Mobile also played a large role in Macy’s recent partnership with NBC on the TV show “Fashion Star.”

Macy’s campaign with NBC earlier this year let consumers watch clothes come down the runway from different designers that they could then shop instantaneously for from their mobile devices.

“It was the beginnings of how we are showing that screens complement each other, particularly when you want to make that real-time purchase,” Ms. Reardon said.

“The best thing that this combination of shopping, fashion and entertainment did for Macy’s was it brought a whole new customer base to, people that we had never seen on before,” she said.

“Thirty percent new customers that really got the fact that you could do both things at the same time sitting on your sofa at home while you are being entertained.”

Mobile slam dunk
John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation at Dunkin’ Brands, Boston also spoke on the panel about the success that the coffee chain is seeing with mobile.

Since launching its mobile payment app last year, Dunkin’ Donuts has amassed 3.5 million downloads.

Mr. Costello said that compared to other brands, traditional marketing works well at Dunkin’ Donuts, which has played a large role in not only how Dunkin’ Donuts markets its mobile app, but also within its marketing in general.

In addition to payments, Dunkin’ Donuts also looks at how mobile can enhance the in-in experience.

Dunkin’ Donuts is currently testing a new advanced loyalty program called DD Smart. In 2014, the program will expanded with a CRM focus.

“Think long-term – invest in mobile, but test, test, test more of it because we’re finding that some things that are very obvious don’t work and other things that are less obvious do work,” Mr. Costello said.

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