Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pizza Hut keeps it relevant

I like when companies tie pop culture into its Twitter messaging. It makes me wonder what Pizza Hut thought of LOST.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Target gets 'LOST'

Like many, today I'm mourning the series finale of "LOST." And yes, it was a beautiful conclusion to six chaotic, complicated and emotionally draining years on the island. When millions of eyes were glued to the TV last night to watch the series wrap up -- and to see Jimmy Kimmel's cast reunion special afterward -- Target jumped in with this hilarious commercial about the island's mysterious smoke monster. Perfection.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Google finds a way to keep you on its homepage

It's always exciting when Google switches up its homepage logo for various holidays. But today's celebration of the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man brings search interaction to a whole new level. You can actually PLAY Pac-Man on the homepage. So long Friday afternoon productivity!

People of Walmart are Web celebs

The People of Walmart blog has been around for quite awhile now, but I keep seeing more and more sites linking to it.

I wonder how Walmart's marketing department feels about the existence of a heavily-trafficked blog that pokes fun of its clientele?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When did McDonald's get so mod?

Last week I saw McDonald's testing a walk-thru on 14th Street in Manhattan. Now I'm seeing many locations throughout the city undergoing major face lifts. The chain is certainly on a roll these days. I snapped these pictures last night at its location in Greenwich Village.

Inspired by the company's redesign efforts in Europe, McDonald's customers can now sit in egg chairs, enjoy brightly colored walls and dine at wide tables.

The move is a good one as the company aims to cash in on the "experiential dining" trend. It's also smart for continuing its efforts to reach a new set of customers that may have once avoided fast food with its new coffee menu items.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nordstrom Rack makes its mark on Manhattan

Nordstrom Rack made its Manhattan debut this morning with a 32,136-sq.-ft. store in the heart of the Union Square district – and shoppers didn’t waste anytime, many lining up to get their first peek at the store.

The store takes up 32,000-square-feet in the basement of a former Virgin Megastore. Although the chain’s president recently said that he would have liked to have led its NYC debut with a full-line store, the move comes at an appropriate time when many shoppers are trading down amid the down economy.

As an outlet, the Rack carries a more limited variety of merchandise that includes clearance from Nordstrom's own stores and products from name-brand suppliers.

To accommodate the expected heavy volume, the store features an automated checkout line. A large television screen automatically directs a single line of customers to one of 19 cash registers – similar to what you'd see in various supermarket locations, such as Whole Foods.

With 20,000 Nordstrom cardholders in the greater Manhattan area – and no full-line Nordstrom stores in the city – I’m sure this store will get a lot of play. The next closest Nordstrom is about 25 miles away in the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island.

And finally, shoppers that bought anything from the store today received a free tote bag. (Yes, that's mine in hand -- I couldn't resist).

The New York City location brings to 76 the number of Rack outlets that Nordstrom operates. The retailer has 114 full-line stores.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cupidtino: A dating site for Apple fans. Really.

I'm torn -- is Apple on to something or are they trying just too hard?

Cupidtino.com -- a name play on "cupid" and Apple's "Cupertino" headquarters -- is gearing up for a summer launch to romantically connect tech-savvy, Apple-brand aficionados nationwide. Here is what the Cupidtino homepage says about the new site:

Cupidtino is a beautiful new dating site created for fans of Apple products by fans of Apple products! Why? Diehard Mac & Apple fans often have a lot in common – personalities, creative professions, a similar sense of style and aesthetics, and of course a love for technology. We believe these are enough reasons for two people to meet and fall in love, and so we created the first Mac-inspired dating site to help you find other Machearts around you.

Cupidtino will launch in June 2010 exclusively on Apple platforms – including sweet location-based social apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Apple is looking for its slice of the online dating business, and I'm sure it will get its cut.

Click, click, click.

Starbucks pulls the clever card

Starting today and running until Sunday, May 16, Starbucks is cashing in on everyone's favorite time of day: Happy Hour. From 3 to 5 p.m. daily, consumers in need of an afternoon pick-me-up can order any Frappuccino blended beverage for half price at their local Starbucks.

The move is a part of the company's efforts to draw attention to its new in-store customization options. Starbucks' Frappuccino.com helps customers select and create different orders by selecting flavors, sizes, toppings, milk preferences and more. The site also encourages Starbucks drinkers to sign up for daily SMS reminders, create artwork right on the site and (of course) share their orders with friends on Facebook (or invite them to the closest Starbucks Happy Hour).

With so much personalization out there (and much love for discounted deliciousness and an excuse to sneak out for an afternoon break), Starbucks has a great promotion on its hands and has used the Web (via its Frappuccino.com site and social networking initiatives) to create great buzz so far. Now let's see how if it helps bring more customers back into its stores!

Uniquely Uniqlo

Seemingly out of nowhere, their cheap, skinny rainbow-colored basics became a kind of New York uniform. Just how did the Japanese discount brand become the hottest retailer in the city?

This is a great read from New York Magazine about how Japanese fast-fashion powerhouse Uniqlo has become the "it" shop in Manhattan. Click, click, click for the round up.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The iPad: Challenges and opportunities

There’s been a lot of buzz about the Apple iPad since it hit the market last month, and many predict it could have a significant impact on the way people shop in the future. I spoke with David Fry, founder of e-commerce solution provider Fry Inc., about the probable impact of the iPad and what it could mean for the retail industry.

What has the consumer response been so far with the iPad?
Fry: With about a million iPads sold in one month in the United States alone, you’d have to classify the response as ‘strong.’ However, even Steve Jobs would have a hard time proving that someone really “needs” an iPad, especially with so many iPhones and Kindles already in consumer hands. Nonetheless, it does fill a gap in the electronic-gadget spectrum. It’s a great device for consuming media, in all forms. You can read e-books (both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle books), watch TV and movies, check e-mail, surf the Web and shop online. Plus, the iPad’s battery life -- at more than 12 hours -- is a game changer and is much longer than a standard laptop.

What is the iPad's potential impact on e-commerce?
Fry: Smaller mobile devices such as iPhones are having an impact on e-commerce already, primarily due to their mobility and ubiquity. Many consumers carry a smart phone with them so they can use it to check prices and availability, comparison shop, find a local store and even place an order. So far, however, a small number of consumers are actually completing a full transaction on their devices. Since the iPad’s usability is far greater, many consumers will complete full e-commerce transactions just as they would on a laptop or desktop computer.

The iPad’s design encourages a more intimate Web experience and newer e-commerce designs. The Gap’s new iPad application is an excellent example. It’s focused on one product line (Gap 1969) and allows shoppers to experience pictures and video in a ‘social’ way and is far more engaging and versatile than any iPhone app would be.

Click to watch a video demo of Gap's innovative iPad app.

How do you see the iPad impacting retail in the next year? Few years?
Fry: The iPad won’t have too much of an impact in the next year, but within two years you’ll see many stores have dedicated iPad applications, and their sites will be changed to reflect some of the design aesthetics the iPad will make popular. This includes larger images and videos, touch interactions and geo-location features. Consumer expectations will also increase. In response, consumers will expect websites to pick up their games.

How could this ultimately change the shopper experience and influence shopper expectations?
Fry: A number of retailers are already making plans to have in-store iPad applications. Imagine a store associate, armed with an iPad, guiding a customer around a high-end fashion store, a furniture showroom or a bridal-oriented home goods retailer. The iPad allows the associate and the customer to visualize products not available in the store. They could configure a room layout together, for instance, at Room and Board. They could make sure a blouse and skirt are the perfect match at Ann Taylor. And the luster of the iPad will be a great reflection on the store’s brand.

In addition, remember that time you went into a retailer about five to 10 years ago and realized you knew more about the TV set you were trying to buy than the store associate trying to sell it to you? Consumers are going to feel that way more and more, and they will no longer shop at retailers who can’t keep up with them. I believe it’s all about how we are going to meet our customers’ increased expectations.

Are people ready to make big purchases on iPads and mobile devices or do you think the wave has yet to come?
Fry: They’re as ready to make big purchases on an iPad as on a desktop -- maybe even more so. The intimate nature of the surfing experience inspires a consumer to do more online research in less time and can add to their confidence about a big purchase. While they may agonize for a week about a large-screen TV purchase, for instance, I think if given an hour with an iPad and the right Web sites and downloadable apps, they could convince themselves to make the purchase while watching ‘Glee’ on their living room sofa.

For the full interview, click here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Because tech nerds need a good cleaning too

How much do I absolutely LOVE these little soaps from GeekSoap.com? For $5, you can take a Facebook, Twitter or RSS feed bar of soap into the shower with you. All of this is, of course, further proof that social networking really is ubiquitous these days.

And just for fun, here are a few more creatively geeky soaps for the tech-minded out there. This batch is from Geeky-Gadgets.com -- enjoy!

The iPhone soap:

Nintendo controller set soap:

Control Alt Delete soap:

Tetris soap:

Is McDonald's testing a NYC walk-thru?

McDonald's is synonymous with drive-thrus, but last week I saw my very first urban "walk-thru" location on 14th Street in Manhattan. I'm not sure if this was location-specific, but customers could freely ordering meals from a storefront window off the street.

Is there really a need for this? I'm not sure, but at least this lady got a kick out of it.