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Macy’s makes app linchpin in Black Friday shopping experience

October 16, 2013


The Macy's iPhone app

Macy’s is positioning its mobile application as a digital personal assistant for holiday shoppers that can help them plan their shopping trip in advance and find their way once in store.

Beginning Nov. 21, users of the Macy’s app will be able to view the retailer’s Black Friday specials on their mobile devices and create customized shopping lists that can be edited and shared with friends. Mobile users who want a first look at select Black Friday specials right now can visit Macy’s Pinterest page.

“This year is going to be huge, and Macy’s is one of those advanced mobile app users – they are really on top of the mobile experience,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director at Yankee Group, Boston. “They are using technologies like geofencing and indoor Wi-Fi connectivity inside some of their flagship stores.

“What I haven’t seen them do is really engage in the self-service side of it, so really engage in self check-out and payment functionality,” she said. “They’ve been much more around guiding the customer experience as a whole, at least in their flagship store – it hasn’t been scaled out to a wider effort yet.

“Once you get that indoor location going, that’s when you start doing the real-time offers that are relevant – they are still not there yet, even for this Black Friday.”

Holiday shopping
As mobile adoption has grown, both smartphones and tablets are playing a bigger role in the Thanksgiving shopping experience, with users searching for deals while at home and bringing their devices with them to support in-store shopping activities.

Macy’s is ramping up its mobile marketing in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is when shoppers traditionally take advantage of in-store deals to get a jump start on their Christmas gift buying.

Holiday shoppers will be able to take advantage of new app features introduced by Macy’s over the summer, including new location-specific technology to make it easier for users to find their favorite brands and departments inside the Macy’s Herald Square location in New York.

Macy’s app

App users can also shop Macy’s entire online assortment, scan product bar codes to view details and customer reviews as well as receive exclusive offers.

The retailer is also aggressively pushing its mobile app and debuted a new TV ad earlier this fall that focuses on the key benefits of the app and includes a call-to-action at the end of the commercial prompting users to text in a keyword to Macy’s short code for a chance at winning a gift card.

“Expect a boost of mobile enabled shopping and deal seeking this Thanksgiving with some help of the new wave of iPhones flooding the market and more mature mobile programs from both retailers and social apps,” said David Hewitt, global mobile lead for SapientNitro.

“Twitter is better set-up for time-based promotional blasts, Instagram is reported to start turning on their ad model around that time, and Macy’s/Pinterest is already showing sneak-peaks for Black Friday,” he said.

More personalization
Retailers such as Macy’s and others are still learning what works on mobile apps for their customers around the holidays.

This year, there is likely to be more personalization in how retailers deliver mobile offers to their app users. Retailers know users will be shopping on mobile for the holidays, so they can do some segmentation and analysis ahead of time in order to be able to have a more personalized offer that will really get users engaged.

For the upcoming holiday season, Macy’s is also planning a bigger push into email, SMS and responsive design, according to an executive speaking at the eTail East conference earlier this year (see story).

With customers responding well to Macy’s mobile search efforts, the retailer is expanding its mobile focus to email and testing responsive design to make emails more productive on mobile.

The retailer is also testing to figure out which SMS content customers will respond to. Currently, the focus is on promoting sales but the retailer is also looking at how to incorporate the store experience into mobile messaging.

Visual recognition
One mobile tactic customers that may not see a lot of use from Macy’s this year is QR codes.

While the retailer has embraced them in the past, an executive speaking at the recent Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference suggested that the downloads have not been spectacular when users are required to go find and download an app and then scan a QR code (see story).

Instead, over the holidays Macy’s will be using a new visual recognition technology enabling users to wave their phone in front of a billboard or phone kiosk to get the image of the product being displayed. Users will also be able to watch videos.

Macy’s will also have a prominent place on Apple’s iTunes Radio as part of its strategy of reaching Millennials.

In general, there will be a big focus from retailers on enhanced in-store functionality this holiday season.

There will also be a bigger focus on deals. Not only does mobile make it easy for users to find, store and redeem offers, but with the on-going economic uncertainty mobile is also a great way for retailers to deliver personalized offers to their customers.

“Last year, was really just piloting,” Ms. Kingstone said. “Now we understand that consumers want their mobile apps.

“So I think we are going to see a lot more promotions that are going to be around apps, we are going to see a lot more tying into out of stocks and being able to understand and check inventory,” she said. “And hopefully do a little more cross-channel shopping.

“But mostly it is going to just be around improving the app for app engagement.”

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

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