Wednesday, July 29, 2009 sets up shop on Facebook is opening up the first Facebook retail store, allowing consumers a chance to shop for products directly through the social networking site, according to the Associated Press. Is this the next step for retailers on Facebook? Possibly so.

Since the company gets the majority of its orders online, it feels that mobile applications and the Facebook store are a natural step. The company launched an application for the BlackBerry last fall, and one for the iPhone followed shortly after.

Of course, the company still faces a few challenges. It's hard to find its fan page on Facebook unless you remember to include the hyphens and the ".com." said it is aware of the problem. However, Facebook would have to change its search capabilities in order to fix it. Once you get to the page, however, the purchase process is relatively seamless.

There are roughly 300,000 active fan pages on Facebook for businesses ranging from Target to McDonald's, but this is the first time consumers can make a purchase from a retailer directly on the social networking site.

L.L. Bean wants to play

Many retailers are trying to engage consumers with innovative, interactive iPhone applications -- and L.L. Bean is no exception.

The Freeport, Maine-based retailer recently launched its first ever iPhone game application, called “Moosentration." The free game is a twist on the classic Concentration memory card game and features three skill levels and 24 game variations.

I was a little skeptical at first, but the game is pretty great. Images hiding behind L.L. Bean-branded card tiles include L.L. Bean and such Maine iconic items as Bean Boots, lighthouses and wildlife critters. And I love the sound effects too.

“The Moosentration app is a unique and fun way for L.L. Bean to interact with its customers through mobile technology,” said Steve Fuller, L.L. Bean CMO.

L.L. Bean has teamed up with Maine software company Blue Ox Technologies and is offering free Moosentration downloads for six months. The iPhone game application is free to all users, and can be downloaded to iPhone and iPod Touch devices through the iTunes application store using search term “L.L. Bean.”

Is your company looking to engage shoppers via mobile apps too?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sneak preview: J.C. Penney takes Manhattan

I took a press tour yesterday of the new J. C. Penney store (Manhattan's first) at the newly renovated Manhattan Mall in Herald Square, close to Macy's New York flagship. The two-level 150,000-sq.-ft. store, which opens July 31 (soft launch today, July 23), is designed to serve an enormous customer base that includes local residents, commuters, business travelers and tourists.

I met with John Wise, VP director store planning and design for J.C. Penney, and he explained the decisions behind some of the store's unique touches.

For convenience and speedy checkout, the store features nearly 100 registers and an electronic queuing system that directs customers to available registers and informs customers of their estimated wait times. The system, by Lawrence Metal, is very cool and creates a seamless checkout experience without associates having to yell for the next customer to step down. Predicted wait times are also displayed on a flat-screen TV at the checkout area.

"We first heard about the system at Global Shop, and later tried it out in one of our Texas stores," Wise said. "We had great success with it there and after we made the change, our customer satisfaction rose 12 points, which is tremendous. If it succeeds here, and we know it will, we hope to roll it out to more stores moving forward."

Typical J.C. Penney stores have 10- to 11-ft. ceilings, but Wise was working with an 8-ft. one in Manhattan. "We didn't want shoppers to feel closed in, so we hung panels at different levels to give the ceiling depth and break up the eye. Plus, it gives the impression that you are in a New York City loft."

Continuing with that theme, the juniors and young men's department have graffiti in the dressing room. Meanwhile, brand names are wrapped around the stores' columns, which have faux brick wallpaper that further adds to the "loft" feel.

The store also has an interactive touchscreen unit that allows customers to browse (Think giant iPhone). I have to admit that it's pretty amazing. The company is testing this out in five other locations, and this alone makes me want to go back to the store soon.

The location also features LED lighting, and includes a 2,000-sq.-ft. Sephora beauty boutique.

Want to see more pictures? Check them out here.

Culture shock? Amazon buys Zappos

"This is, in some ways, Amazon throwing in the towel on footwear because they've tried to compete with Zappos," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "If you can't beat them, buy them."

It's officially true, plans to acquire rival online footwear retailer The deal is worth about $928 million in cash and mostly stock. Read the full story here.

Sure, it's a smart move for, but I'm not sure how I feel about my favorite retailer being snatched up so readily by the online giant. What will happen to Zappos' unique company culture and its amazing customer service that helps it stand out the way it does?

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh addresses the matter:

"A big part of the reason why Amazon is interested in us is because they recognize the value of our culture, our people, and our brand," Hsieh said in a letter on the company’s blogsite. "Their desire is for us to continue to grow and develop our culture (and perhaps even a little bit of our culture may rub off on them)."

Let's hope so.

Question on the table: Are you working with Gen Y or against them?

Here's an interesting read from on how to work with Gen Y. Kick up your heels and take note.

Click, click, click.

Starbucks wants your attention

Who got their free pastry with a Starbucks coffee purchase the other day? Oh how the free food wars continue on ...

PS - Have you seen all of the changes being made at Starbucks these days? First, they announce its new green store design strategy. Then they announce a pilot program where the company will operate three stores in its hometown of Seattle under a different name (along with serving wine and beer). We also can't forget the Facebook initiative too.

And finally, shuttering stores, laying off workers and cutting other costs helped Starbucks Corp. beat Wall Street's profit expectations for its fiscal third quarter Tuesday. Yes, there might be a lot of work still ahead to turn the company around, but at least it's pulling out the stops to do so.

Barney's window displays under attack

So this is what happens when Barney's creative director Simon Doonan goes out of town? Oh my my.

The upscale retailer ordered its window display, which shows mannequins being attacked (a la "dressed to kill"), to be taken down immediately. Well, I certainly agree that the blood splatter was a bit much.

The Daily News has the full story here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Marketing teams suspect food key to consumer hearts

It was only a matter of time before White Castle followed in the footsteps of Denny's, KFC, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and every other fast-food chain out there offering up free food to lure consumers into stores recently. Well, the company said it was to celebrate its 88th birthday.

Who's next? Or, should I say, who's even left?

Starbucks promo follow up: Who's your secret admirer?

Last week I wrote about how my friend and I won coupons for a free pint of Starbucks Ice Cream via a Facebook promotion. (Starbucks is giving away 280,000 free pints until July 19 to registered Facebook users as a part of National Ice Cream Month -- 20,000 free coupons are given away every day.)

Again, the catch is that quantities are limited to just over 800 pints per hour, and if you are a lucky winner, you have to send the coupon to a friend. No self keeps! Or, well, you're not supposed to.

Anyway, my friend won one for me, and I won one for her (it was lovely). And just a few days later, my coupon arrived in my mailbox. Perfect!

But I have a few small complaints about how this stage was executed. First, it didn't say anywhere in the mailed letter where to pick up your free pint. Are they sold in Starbucks locations? Grocery stores? If they are plugging a new line of coffee-flavored ice cream, they should let consumers know where to get it.

To extend this idea, the company should inform coupon recipients about where to find the product closest to their location. It would help to have a product-locator feature on their site, too (or at least the name of a few grocery chains that carry it). Plus, encouraging people to visit the Starbucks site for this information will increase traffic and further introduce shoppers to the new ice-cream line.

And finally, Starbucks didn't include anywhere in the letter information about WHO sent the coupon. Does this mean people across the country are getting coupons from others they will never know to thank? You'd think Starbucks would provide the senders' name not only for obvious reasons but also so the duo can talk about the promotion afterward. Word-of-mouth marketing, anyone?

Overall, the promo is one of the best I've seen in a while, but Starbucks still needs to fine tune those details if it wants to leave that lasting impression.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yowza: My thoughts exactly

Okay, iPhone users, I have a great new (and free) app for you. (And retailers, pay attention too):

Yowza!! sends coupons directly to your phone. When you launch the app, it will alert you about deals in your area. And instead of toting around paper coupons, you can just show a digital one at the register and the clerk scans it.

Oh my, my... is this the future of couponing? Please tell me so!

I want this!

Or wait, maybe I'd want a toy laptop in pink? Either way, technology is certainly being marketed to the parents of an ever-younger age group these days. And, of course, don't forget about the Blackberry for kids that debuted this summer too.

Speaking of how toys have evolved over the years, I can't believe Lite Brite (my prized possession while growing up in the 80s) now comes in a flat-screen option.

Oh how the times are changing ...

Morgan Stanley learning Gen Y

Morgan Stanley hired a young Gen Y intern (15 years old!) to learn more about the Web and where it might be headed,  and about the habits of young consumers. The company seems extremely pleased with what it's learning so far -- it called the teen's report "one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen."

Among the intern's confessions? Teens don't use Twitter, they dislike advertisements and think online ads are annoying.

Read more here.

NYC theater targets the Bullseye

A few years back, the Chain Store Age team took an after-hours field trip to see the off-Broadway show Wal-Martopia. (Read our review here). But now Target Corp. was recently targeted in a scathing New York City theatrical production, "Behind the Bullseye," about the retailer's presence in Brooklyn. (It's off-off Broadway).

Here's what Time Out New York had to say:

[The show] portrays employees and patrons as late-capitalist zombies whose love of shopping and neatly organized shelves morphs into grotesque pagan worship. The deadpan delivery and stylized movement is cute for perhaps ten sketch-comedy minutes, but it conveys no information that would dissuade me from shopping at Target in the future.

After a short run (nearly two weeks after its July 1 start), it wrapped up its final show last weekend. It's too bad, I wanted to see it , especially since it was only a few blocks from my apartment. But then again, according to most reviews, it's probably a few blocks too far anyway.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Window writing

bebe informs shoppers via its storefront that they can sign up for message alerts for special events and offers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Best Buy looking for converts

Best Buy is gearing up to use Twitter to enhance its customer-service levels, according to a report in TransWorldNews.

The retailer said it will launch the program on July 19, when it will begin searching out and answering consumer Twitter posts, called “tweets,” that express a need for information about electronic goods.

More than 500 Best Buy employees will reportedly participate in the new Twitter customer-service program. According to the company’s CMO Barry Judge, Best Buy hopes to convert information-seekers to paying customers.

Kmart, Pizza Hut and Walmart already use Twitter to run promotions and increase consumer awareness, but Best Buy is actively seeking out Twitter users who show an interest in consumer electronics and trying to convert them into customers. Reportedly, this is a first for the industry.

Interesting idea, right? (Finding potential shoppers rather than waiting for them to come to you). Think it will work?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I scream, you scream

Fast food chains are all about the free giveaways these days, but my favorite promotion so far comes from Starbucks -- it's rewarding Facebook devotees with a free pint of its new line of branded ice cream, but the company is making them work for the goods first.

First, the background: Starbucks is giving away 280,000 free pints until July 19 to registered Facebook users as a part of National Ice Cream Month. These members can sign up for a coupon redeemable for a free pint of any flavor of Starbucks ice cream at, and up to 20,000 free coupons are given away every day. However, the brilliant part is that quantities are limited to just over 800 pints per hour, which lures Facebook users back each hour to try.

When I first went to the promotion's Facebook application page, I was surprised to see that all lucky winners had to give their prized pint to someone else (as seen in the image above). A form on the site asks for the mailing address for "someone special in your life," and requests your email address so the recipient knows who sent the gift. But as my friend said, "This is a little altruistic for me."

At the top of the next hour, my friend and I anxiously clicked through to become among the first to snatch up a free pint. (We both won! And decided to give our awarded pints to each other. It seemed only fair). When I went back to the page nearly three minutes later, all 800 free coupons had already been given away.

For those who didn't make the cut, the site gives members a $1.00 coupon for its new ice cream. This is a smart move for Starbucks, as they are still rewarding those who took the time to try their luck (and made it worth their time).

It's cleverness lies in the fact that it implants the "receive a gift/give a gift" practice that keeps the company marching steadily through Facebook's very large subscriber base.

It's a great digital word-of-mouth promotion, and good for hungry Facebook fans with some extra time on their hands.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

KFC to replace Colonel Sanders icon with image of you?

When KFC issued a press release announcing a search for "a new iconic face for the brand's new Kentucky Grilled Chicken (KGC)," a public outcry began. "Why?," one customer wrote online. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

While KFC confirmed that Colonel Sanders will continue to represent the company he founded and built, the search continues for the ultimate KGC fan, who could potentially appear in future advertising.

Fans of the brand can now visit and vote on whether they'd like Colonel Sanders to be the only icon for the brand, or whether they'd rather see the winner of the KGC Ultimate Fan search be the Colonel's counterpart. Online voting will continue through July 8 and results of the “poultry polls” will be announced shortly thereafter.

If fans think they have what it takes to be named the "Ultimate Kentucky Grilled Chicken fan," they can also visit and see how their faces would look on the brand's bucket. KFC has introduced a "bucketizer" widget that allows fans to upload images and see how they would look on a Kentucky Grilled Chicken bucket. Only two people have ever appeared on a KFC bucket (Colonel Harland Sanders and race driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.).

If fans like the way they look on the bucket, but they feel the need to further channel their inner Colonel, the "bucketizer" widget has a "Colonelize" function, which can add white hair, black glasses, a goatee and even the Colonel's signature white suit to uploaded bucket photos.

The innovative idea encourages both brand interaction and personalization, two of the hottest "must-haves" to effectively engage consumers online. KFC is thinking outside the box -- er, bucket -- indeed.