Focus on: Mobility

From mobile wallets to QR codes to apps, Macy's is making all the right moves

Mobility is sure to play an increasingly important role in Macy's omnichannel future, both in commerce and marketing. But don't look for the company to take a cookie-cutter approach.

"Between QR codes, what we're doing on Facebook and Instagram that is feeding into our mobile app, what we do with shopkick — everybody is different and that is why personalization becomes so important, because there isn't just one cookie-cutter approach to it," said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer, Macy's Inc. "The more that you can understand the customer, the better you will be at designing offers for her."

Speaking at the National Retail Federation Convention's 102nd Convention & Expo in New York City, Reardon said Macy's has embraced mobile as a multitasking tool to help the nation's largest department store chain better serve its customers.

"Mobile is our communication tool," Reardon said. "Using the mobile device to communicate with our customers is probably the most important thing."

Notable on the m-commerce side, the department store retailer is making its first foray into mobile wallets. Macy's is currently conducting tests with Google Wallet in five markets and is piloting Isis, the wireless carrier-driven mobile solution, in another two markets. Expect mobile wallets to be a major focus during the next two years, according to Reardon.

Emphasizing an omnichannel approach, Macy's sees mobile as a way to bridge online and in-store silos, and drive incremental sales. At Macy's New York City flagship, for example, sales associates on the expanded shoe floor (billed as "the world's largest shoe floor," with more than 250,000 pairs of shoes), use iPod Touch devices as cash registers.

The devices also provide detailed product information and allow associates to determine the availability of a given size and style on the spot. If the item is not in stock, the associate can locate it elsewhere and have it shipped in two days.

"The mobile access is one of the biggest reasons we are having such success on that floor," Reardon said.

QR CODES: Another growing technology is the use of QR codes. One application for the Bobbi Brown cosmetics counter leveraged content of a Macy's TV commercial. By scanning the code customers could view on their own devices, makeup artist Bobbi Brown demonstrating how to create a smoky eye. The brand's sales "exponentially doubled," reported Reardon. While the video wasn't explicitly selling anything, it provided product information "right in the palm of her hand," she added.

And like travelers using GPS to map out journeys, in kind, over Black Friday weekend Macy's offered an app, devised with help from eBay and GSI Commerce, which guided shoppers to where sale items were in each of its stores.

"If a shopper is on a mission, if they have gotten up at midnight to come shopping, they want to make sure they know where they are going," Reardon explained.

In December, the retailer unveiled an updated version of its Macy's app featuring a tiled layout, a bar-code scanning function, and swipe and touch. Within 10 days of launch, 44% of its existing users had downloaded the new version.

"We find that coupons, particularly on a mobile device, are what is driving engagement and driving the commerce," Reardon said.

There is a separate app for the New York City flagship to aid shoppers as its goes through a four-year renovation. Along with a current directory, shoppers can make reservations and be alerted when their lunch table is ready or when it is their turn at Santaland.

One of its biggest promotional assets — the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — is honored with an app too. People are able to learn more about the historic parade, find restrooms and coffee spots along the 2.5-mile route, and even turn themselves into virtual elf balloons and float along just by uploading a photo.

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