eBay has been dabbling with shoppable, touchscreen-based windows for a while now, and have now started a fairly serious field experiment and demo in the swish 180-store Westfield San Francisco Centre mall.
The online auctioneer and Westfield’s own digital lab group have taken three vacant storefronts in the mall and used a combination of big vinyl graphics and rear projection touch films to make the windows into what they call connected glass.
Shoppers can browse through items at three different, branded stations for Sony, Rebecca Minkoff, and Toms. If they like something and want to buy, the transactional process gets pushed to the relative safety and privacy of their smartphones.
eBay, says a report in Fast Company, “sees connected glass as the way of the future for airports, train stations, and retail stores looking to integrate their e-commerce operations in brick and mortar experiences.”
The glass will be in the mall until mid-January. The set-ups are similar to what eBay did this summer in NYC with retailer Kate Spade.
The Fast Company report says the e-commerce transactions are handled by eBay and Paypal, while delivery and logistics are handled by the retailer.
Neither Minkoff nor Toms have retail locations inside Westfield San Francisco; Sony has a mall space where customers can pick up their item. When customers see an item they want, they checkout through the giant touchscreen; customers enter their mobile phone number, which is hidden on the screen, and then receive mobile HTML links on their phone. The HTML links allow them to complete their order though either Paypal or by credit or debit card.
So here we have a situation where online retailers have eroded bricks and mortar retailer sales, and in some categories – like books and music – clobbered them. Now the online retailers are taking up space inside the mall, in empty slots that in pre-digital times would have likely been filled by some bricks and mortar retailer.
The dynamic of a retailer having a touchscreen on a shop window, so people could shop there instead of walking in largely mystified me. So did the idea that people would whip out credit cards and shop off a sidewalk after store hours. This is different, though. These are retailers who aren’t even that mall (except Sony) taking out virtual space and making it pretty easy to buy.
Would love to see the top-line metrics on this, if anyone talks about them.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.