Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some of the coolest sites you'll see all year

The Webby nominees have been announced! Here are the Top 5 contenders in the retail category this year. They're are all pretty great. Who should win? Vote using the poll on your right!

1. IKEA: Come into the closet. Let's Dance.

To promote IKEA's wardrobe solutions, this innovative and interactive site features five IKEA-designed rooms occupied by people who dance to the stimulus of music, rhythm or just noise. Users can change songs, upload their own music, turn their keyboard into a drum machine, or sing, shout and clap into their microphone. Agency: Forsman & Bodenforsm, http://demo.fb.se/e/ikea/letsdance (watch the demo!)

2. Rich & Skinny Jeans

Rich & Skinny Jeans is a company with a bold new vision for how commerce will be re-defined in the digital age. The site gives users a glimpse into the lifestyle of the "rich and skinny" by telling a unique story (with video) that unfolds as you click throughout the site. Agency: iNDELIBLE Media Corp, http://www.richandskinnyjeans.com


The NikeiD experience has been redesigned so that the product is now the interface. Users can design footwear by clicking on any part of the shoe, and new technology allows users to get closer to it than before. Consumers can also search through user-generated ideas or share their own creation with other shoppers. Agency: R/GA, http://www.rga.com/award/nikeid.html

4. Levi's Lady Style 2008

This futuristic site is all about mastering jean cut and proportion. Users can navigate through different "triangle" dimensions (the triangle form is used a metaphor to represent two of the season’s hottest shapes). It also allows shoppers to see fits from every angle. Agency: Ogilvy Singapore, http://www.our-work.com/levis/lls08/

5. The Brave New World, Cipher Sneakers

Cipher Sneakers is an alternative shoe brand that gives a modern spin on a classic concept. The sleek site evokes the same feeling: Its text space is used for clever and engaging copy, and its Web tools (such as its innovative take on the zoom feature) are anything but old hat. Agency: CIPHER / WHITESPACE, http://www.cipherism.com

The 13th Annual Webby Awards Gala will be hosted again in New York City by SNL's Seth Meyers in June. Vote on the official Webby site here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

eBay does the AC

You're probably not supposed to take pictures on a casino floor, but this photo-op was just too good to pass up. While I was enjoying the long-awaited sweet sunshine in Atlantic City, N.J., this past weekend, I spotted these eBay slot machines at the Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino. I wanted to play, but every seat was filled -- and those ladies certainly weren't leaving. Seems like a nice success for the popular pure-play retailer.

Unfried KFC: The giveaway wars continue

Is it just me or does every restaurant chain seem to be running giveaway promotions these days? Riding on the heels of the Dunkin’ Donuts and Ben & Jerry’s promo last week, KFC is inviting consumers in stores today for a free piece of its new Kentucky Grilled Chicken. It’s a smart way to get loyal customers to try the new product, while other consumers (perhaps even those more health conscious?) will also be lured in for a taste test.

P.S. - There's a Facebook group called “Petition to Get KFC to Deliver to Your Door!!!!!!!!” (Yes, there are actually eight exclamation points). It also has nearly 330,000 members and 4,500 wall posts discussing how consumers want their KFC delivered. I wonder if KFC is listening.

For those not on Facebook, check out the petition site here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That Dunkin' has such nice manners

Dunkin' Donuts thanks its 16,000+ followers on Twitter after its special-promo day.

Lessons from 'Confessions'

I saw Sophie Kinsella’s novel-turned-feature-film “Confessions of a Shopaholic," starring actress Isla Fischer, forever and a day ago, and I've been meaning to blog about its untimely debut in theaters for quite awhile. And since there is one specific scene that often plays over in my head, even weeks after seeing it, I figured it was time to finally sit down and discuss it.

First, the premise: Basically, moviegoers watch main character/recent college grad Rebecca Bloomwood max out her credit cards to pay for designer goods and partake in uninhibited, superfluous shopping until she learns the predictable, valuable lesson: You don't have to spend big money to get what you want out of life. Simple enough.

But here's the scene I was referring to: When Bloomwood walks by various department stores, window mannequins come alive and lure her in to shop. This comical and charming scene is not only one of the more entertaining parts of the film, it's also relatable.

I thought of this earlier while on my way to the bank, reminding myself that I needed to deposit money, not spend it on the way there. When the sun finally sneaks out (as it's finally been doing these days), it's hard to resist casual strolls that involve peeking in your favorite stores.

By the end of the movie, Bloomwood finally resists this temptation, and animated mannequins consequently celebrate by clapping and cheering.

This window-shopping only mentality obviously doesn't bode well for retailers, but it's a common mindset still on the table. And I can't help but feel a little victorious when I resist the same temptation too.

I searched everywhere for the clip online (and ultimately failed), but watch the trailer above for a film refresher.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Milk, bread and your Friday-night movie rental

My parents' latest obsession is the $1 Redbox kiosk at their local supermarket in the Philly suburbs. When I went grocery shopping with them over Easter weekend, I was surprised how much attention the Redbox kiosk was actually getting. The line was almost as long as the check-out aisle. This picture, though a bit blurry, is my attempt to capture the crowded scene. (I don't think it does it justice though).

Since my parents discovered the movie-rental alternative, their trips to Blockbuster have significantly decreased, and so have their Pay-Per-View orders. When I mentioned to them how Blockbuster recently warned it might not be able to stay in business, they immediately thought it was because of Redbox.

Although Blockbuster faces competition from various outlets, from Netflix to iTunes, Redbox is certainly a part of the mix. It's especially ideal for those who don't want to stream their movies online. The company operates nearly 12,900 kiosks throughout the United States, nearly four times as many locations as Blockbuster, and the company plans to introduce 7,100 more by the end of the year.

I may be a part of the growing demographic which streams movies online, but I haven't given up on traditional viewing just yet. There's still something very satisfying about watching a movie on a TV screen. What's even more satisfying though is spending only $1 for a movie rental at my local supermarket, which just so happens to be closer to my apartment than my local Blockbuster anyway.

A&F flagship: What recession?

The economy might be hurting Abercrombie & Fitch's overall sales, which were down 29% in March, but judging by the long line of people that literally wrapped around the block at its flagship on Fifth Avenue last week, you certainly wouldn't know it.

I figured there must have been a celeb-appearance promotion or at least a big sale happening inside, but according to sales associate at the front of the store -- who looked more like a bouncer at club -- "the line is always this long here."

If only A&F could draw crowds like this at the rest of its stores nationwide.

Dunkin' Donuts wants your Facebook status

Getting a Facebook member to mention your brand in their Facebook status is the Web 2.0 word-of-mouth marketing dream. Here is how Dunkin' Donuts is trying to make its way on to a newsfeed near you:

I should first mention that Dunkin' Donuts is giving away small, 16-ounce coffees for 50¢ today. The initiative is a part of an effort to raise money for the Homes for Our Troops nonprofit organization, which builds specialized homes for severely injured veterans. The chain will donate 5¢ to the organization for every coffee sold.

But to support the initiative, Dunkin' Donuts has launched a Facebook application encouraging members to donate their status to support the cause. For those who were on Facebook on election day last November, you might recall how some members donated their status to support their preferred candidate. The page also allows members to make comments, and the response seems to be strong so far:

I'd say feedback like this is pretty good for Dunkin's word-of-mouth marketing...

Speaking of promotions, Ben & Jerry's is also using Facebook to spread the word about its own coveted giveaway. Today is "Free Cone Day" (!) at the ice cream chain, where customers can get a free scoop (and cone) from noon to 8 p.m. I haven't seen a Facebook app to promote the giveaway, but thousands have already RSVPed to the event on its page.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pop Quiz: What Starbucks coffee are you?

Everyone is taking quizzes on Facebook these days. I know this because my newsfeed tells me EVERY time someone takes one. (What Muppets character are you? What New York neighborhood are you?) And now, retailers such as Starbucks are joining in on the quiz action.

* In case anyone is curious, I'm a Caramel Macchiato. De-lish.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The latest Web celeb: Your friendly neighborhood bookseller

Video blogs are becoming increasingly popular on the Web (Have you seen ours?), and retailers are taking full advantage of the medium to reach out to their shoppers.

Barnes & Noble, for example, recently launched a new feature called Blogging Booksellers on its site, Barnesandnoble.com. Eleven booksellers from nine cities around the country are now creating and uploading personalized video blogs about local store events and their latest recommended reads.

Click to watch bookseller Lois, the head of the children's department in Surprise, Ariz., offer book/DVD recommendations for kids here.

The video blogs, updated weekly, intend to bring the experience of chatting with a knowledgeable bookseller in a store to life on the site. This is a clever way for big retailers to create a smaller, localized feel at its various stores nationwide.

The “Store Locator” on Barnes & Noble.com also allows visitors to identify stores with Blogging Booksellers in residence, a way for consumers to find their local “celeb” bloggers -- because I know if I'm ever in a Barnes & Noble in Surprise, Ariz., I'll be sure to hunt down Lois and tell her I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Capturing a Zappos zeitgeist

I often write about how Zappos.com is a standout in the industry not only for its strong customer service reputation, but for its unique corporate lifestyle. This "Nightline" clip truly captures the corporate-culture atmosphere of the online shoe retailer. Just wait until you get 2:00 minutes in and see CEO Tony Hsieh's office -- er, cubicle.

For those looking for an abbreviated video of Zappos' HQ offices, click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The designer way: Obama first, then retail

I recently wrote about how street artist Shepard Fairey, the man behind the popular "Hope" poster of Barack Obama used throughout the presidential campaign, is now designing window displays, catalog covers and shopping bags for Saks.

Check out the store window shots in New York City below:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Movers and shakers: The literal kind

You don’t need to speak Dutch to understand the beauty behind the online viral marketing campaign from Amsterdam-based department store chain HEMA. I first wrote about its Web initiative over a year ago, and I'm still marveled by it. Click here and then wait a few seconds for the animation to begin.

The retailer, known for its affordable and high-quality generic housewares and goods, had expanded its brick-and-mortar presence throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for several decades, but it didn’t offer an e-commerce channel until two years ago. So what better way to let consumers know of its new site than creating a welcome page that is one of the most uniquely engaging and innovative Web introductions the online retail world has seen in a while: an animated site that brings its products to life.

When shoppers visit http://producten.hema.nl/ -- a welcome site that introduces consumers to www.hema.nl -- several products for sale appear on screen, such as cups, an outfit for a baby and packaging tape. But after the mouse is left on the page for several seconds, the cups tip over and roll about the page. A domino sequence then occurs and the page scrolls to follow the moving products.

At the end of "show" -- that’s what it feels like -- a question box appears and asks if you want to send the page to a friend, similar to that of an e-card. And just like that, an online phenomenon ignited. In the first few weeks of the viral’s debut in October 2007, the site attracted more than several hundred thousand page views. People sent it to inboxes all over the globe, introducing not only the site but the brand to shoppers worldwide.

Many companies use viral campaigns as an inexpensive and creative attempt to lure attention to sites. But what makes HEMA’s approach stand apart from others that have taken similar steps in the past is that the style mirrors the very essence of what the company represents. The company calls it “special simplicity.” Read more about its strategy here.

I'm definitely ready to see a new and equally innovative campaign from HEMA. The bar has already been set -- and it’s certainly pretty high.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Madewell cashes in on Topshop's U.S. arrival

Britain’s fast-fashion leader Topshop opened its first-ever U.S. location, in downtown Manhattan (at Broadway and Broome Street in SoHo). And judging by the crowd that gathered outside the 40,000-sq.-ft., four-level location this morning, you would think the Queen herself was in town.

The scene was chaotic, with a line a few blocks deep to enter the location. But leave it to J. Crew Group CEO Mickey Drexler to cash in on the commotion: Topshop's next door neighbor, Madewell, was handing out free coffee and donuts to those who waited in line at Topshop. And for those who went into the Madewell store with coffee in-hand were awarded a free boyfriend t-shirt.

The Madewell window display was hardly subtle too. With a British flag showcased in the background, the window said the following message: "A royal welcome to our new neighbour."

Madewell knew exactly what it was doing, and so did everyone else in line. But as shoppers anxiously waited to enter Topshop, they couldn't have been more happy with their free snacks and shirts.

I would tell you what the store was like, but it was so crowded that this reporter couldn't even get in.

For more on Topshop's first U.S. location, check out Chain Store Age's exclusive article here.

Calling all employees: Addicted to Facebook?

A study shows that using Facebook and YouTube at work actually fosters productivity. All of Gen Y rejoices.