OPERATIONS

Neiman Marcus tests interactive iPhone app

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Dallas — Neiman Marcus said Thursday that it is testing a new iPhone-only app that allows customers to interact directly with their sales associates.

The new app, NM Service, is being tested in four stores this spring — in Austin, Texas; Dallas; San Francisco; and Palo Alto, Calif.

Developed by Signature, NM Service has two interfaces: one for customers and one for sales associates. The customer downloads the app from iTunes and opts into the service. In-store location sensors are installed at key entry points throughout the store. If a customer with the app loaded passes within range, the sensor automatically prompts NM Service to act.

Once the app is engaged, customers will be alerted as to which of their preferred sales associates are currently in the store, as well as upcoming store events, new product arrivals and sales, and emerging fashion trends.

Customers can also mark favorite products, which will automatically be visible to the customer’s sales associates. The app allows customers to easily make appointments or leave messages for associates. In addition, they will be able to scan QR codes on signs throughout the store to unlock the latest trends and product information directly on his or her phone.

The app provides associates with easy access to informative details such as Neiman Marcus store and neimanmarcus.com purchase history and direct access to a customer’s new favorite items. Notifications automatically alert sales associates when their customer arrives in a store and provides a Facebook photograph so the customer can be easily recognized.

"For more than 100 years at Neiman Marcus, our belief in the importance of providing exemplary customer service has been a core corporate value,” said Jim Gold, president, Specialty Retail, The Neiman Marcus Group.

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OPERATIONS

Study: Facebook and Twitter symbols influence online buying

BY Staff Writer

Coral Gables, Fla. — A University of Miami study found that the display of a social media icon such as a Facebook “Like” button or a Twitter symbol on a shopping website influences a consumer’s buying decision.

The University of Miami School of Business Administration, Empirica Research, and StyleCaster Media Group as part of the State of Style Report found that consumers who saw a social media icon near a product that might embarrass them were significantly less likely to buy that product than those who saw the same product without the icon. On the other hand, consumers who viewed products they would be proud to show off were significantly more likely to buy than those who saw the same product with no such icon.

“Our study finds that the mere presence of social media icons on a web page where we shop appears to cause us to feel as if our purchases are being watched by our social network, and we adjust our buying decisions accordingly,” said Claudia Townsend, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration who conducted the research with Emperica’s David Neal.

For this study, nearly 200 consumers explored products in an online shopping context ­- some were products people were happy to display in public (e.g., sportswear for women, a desirable fragrance for men) and others were products they might not want publically displayed (e.g., compression underwear for women, acne products for men). Participants were randomly assigned to see product pages that either included small Facebook and Twitter icons or did not. The researchers then measured the intended purchase behavior of the shoppers.

Key findings include:

  • When the product was one for which public consumption is desirable (e.g., sportswear or a desirable fragrance) the presence of the Facebook and Twitter icons made people 25% more likely to purchase. But when the product was more private in nature (e.g., Spanx, Clearasil), the icons suppressed purchase intentions, also by 25%.
  • The impact on intended buying behavior emerged regardless of whether people had any memory of having seen the social media icons. This suggests that these symbols have penetrated people’s unconscious processes and can influence decisions and behavior in ways that may bypass our awareness and ability to control.
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REAL ESTATE

Regency Centers announces ground-up development in Houston

BY Staff Writer

Jacksonville, Fla. — Shopping center owner Regency Centers said Thursday that it has launched construction on Southpark at Cinco Ranch, a 260,000-sq.-ft. neighborhood center anchored by Kroger, in Fort Bend County, Houston.

In partnership with Excel Commercial Real Estate, Regency Centers began construction of the center’s first phase on Feb. 20, with anchor openings scheduled for fourth quarter 2012.

Located 32 miles west of downtown Houston, Southpark at Cinco Ranch is the first anchored retail development within Cinco Ranch, one of the nation’s fastest growing master-planned communities. The project’s first phase will include a 101,497-sq.-ft. Kroger and fuel center, a 71,680-sq.-ft. Houston-based sporting goods retailer, 29,920 sq. ft. of small shops and seven outparcels.

Southpark at Cinco Ranch is 72% preleased and will add an additional 57,000 sq. ft. in the second phase.

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