Pley is a Netflix-esque service for LEGO fans

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A new rental service called Pley allows customers to rent and return LEGO sets. The service is perfect for those who love the challenge of building a set, but don’t care to keep it around the house.

Users set up a queue of the sets they’d like to rent, and the price varies from $15-39 based on the size of the set. Play sets are sanitized and shipped with the official instructions and a shipping return sticker. Those who decide to keep the set can be billed for it at a discounted price.

Why I’m Curious

As an avid fan of The LEGO Movie, Pley’s appeal to nostalgic Millennials is not lost on me. I’m sure the service is marketed to mothers and their children, but it’s a valuable service for any 20-something who’s strapped for storage space.

via LifeHacker

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Music to Your Inbox!

In an effort to increase increase conversation rates, popular music may soon be making it’s way into your inbox via email marketing campaigns.

DMI Music and Media recently announced a program called Engine 1 that pair majors brands with popular music artists.  The first partner brand is the nutritional supplement maker, Mead Johnson which is testing the program with music from a variety of artists including Bruno Mars. The program aims to leverage music’s emotional impact on people and create brand loyalty.

meadJohnsonMain

Here’s a bit on how it works from AdWeek:  

The songs play when recipients click a button within the message. In a preliminary campaign, 75 percent of openers listened to the music, and 43 percent of those that did came back and listened to the music two or more times.

Why I’m Curious:

While this is an interesting idea, I am curious to see how it actually plays out.  Email marketing is very much dependent on getting someone to open the email in the first place. Unless the subject line of the email states that there is music I wonder if anyone will notice (given that they may just delete the email).  Also, given that music rights are so pricey to obtain, I wonder what the ROI will really be when all is said and done.

Interactive Pajamas Tell Bedtime Stories

A new pajama, appropriately named Smart PJ’s, can read bedtime stories for $25. The pajamas are designed with a series of scannable dots that interact with smart devices. Once the dots are chosen and scanned, children and their parents can read a story from that device.

From PSFK,

Smart PJ’s are designed with a wide array of scannable patterns, which allows for the pattern on the sleeve to read a different story than the pattern on the stomach.

In addition to reading the story, the Smart PJ’s stories are designed to display the words and information on the screen as well. This allows children to turn down the volume and work on their reading skills, or share a traditional story in a non-traditional way with their parents.

Why I’m Curious

We’ve shared a lot of clothing innovation that provides concrete utility to the users, from shirts that help you stop sweating to sportswear that track your performance, but I most of the clothing did not provide entertainment for users. There can be an opportunity for growth beyond bedtime, perhaps when traveling. Also I think it would be interesting if the stories changed based on the size to appeal to a larger audience.

Design Your Sneakers Using Instagram

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Instead of looking through Nike’s online color options to customize a new pair of kicks, Nike is inviting consumers to use their Instagram photos. The new PHOTOiD web app, combines filtered Instagram photos with Nike’s custom ordering process: First the user grants Nike permission to access to their Instagram account. Once a photo has been selected, the software applies the color palette to a pair of Air Max 1, 90 or 95 sneakers (based on the available color library for each footwear option). Designs can then be purchased and/or shared with your social network.

Why I’m Curious:

With all the data/content generated online every day, there’s a persisting question of, “Now what do we do with it?”. This is one of the reasons why I think this program is noteworthy – it recycles pre-existing UGC content to get people to interact with the brand. With a wealth of Instagram photos to utilize, on top of a fairly simple user flow, users are encouraged to spend time on the brand site and try out multiple designs with their photos. And for what it’s worth, there’s the potential to create a truly personal tangible product, inspired my emotionally resonant moments in consumers’ lives.

As far as I can see, it’s unclear if Instagram is making anything off this partnership with Nike, but this could be a viable revenue model for the platform. At least for Nike, it’s a clever mechanism to determine ROI from social media. I wonder if Instagram plans to build similar revenue-generating partnerships with brands in the future.

Magical Machine Finds the Perfect Pair of Jeans

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The days of tirelessly looking for the perfect pair of jeans are gone! Me-Ality is a machine that takes 10 seconds to tell you exactly which brands, styles and sizes are your perfect match. Bloomingdale’s recently installed Me-Ality sizing booths in the women’s denim departments of several of its locations.

The shopper enters a large white, glass-windowed booth and a big wand passes by twice to collect 200,000 measurements. The booth uses light radio waves (the equivalent of 1/1000th of a phone call, according to Me-Ality) to detect the moisture in your skin to sniff out your size. After 10 seconds, a kiosk on the side of the machine gives the shopper a custom barcode that holds all of their size data. When the barcode is scanned, a screen will show all the jeans that are supposed to be the right fit.

Why I’m Curious:

I think this is valuable technology for Bloomingdale’s and its customers. The customized results saves shoppers time and emotional burnout caused from shopping for jeans, and it’s a great way to drive people into the store. More importantly, when a shopper finds clothing that fits them, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Additionally, less time spent trying on jeans may translate to more time spent shopping for other items. The ultimate test will be to see if the results are accurate. Depending on its success and popularity with consumers, perhaps Me-Ality will consider creating a machine for finding the perfect swimwear.

New ‘Get This’ App Opens Up Social Purchases

A new app has debuted that creates a second-screen experience linking purchasable content to the television shows viewers are watching. It’s called Get This, and the free app shows viewers purchasable items on their iPad; items synced up with what you’re watching. Shows include the ABC hit Scandal with Kerry Washington, and the Carrie Diaries.

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From Mashable:

In our multitask-heavy culture, chatting on social media networks while watching television has become the order of the day. We love sharing our thoughts in real time about the shows we’re watching. And as social media becomes more of a platform for like minded audiences to gather, it’s also becoming a vehicle for driving e-commerce. Brands are starting to wake up to this untapped resource and are trying to turn loyal audiences into loyal customers.

Get This works with each show’s production staff (producers and stylists), who tell them in advance which items will be featured on each episode. Then when viewers see those items, they pop up on their screens in the app. The idea being that if you see Washington wear a cute dress on Scandal, it pops up on your screen so you can buy it. An audio-sync button matches to the show and highlights items as they appear on screen. Get This makes money through an affiliate program with the 85 brands and vendors they work with.

Viewers using the app have three buying categories: original items from the shows, stylist picks at similar price points inspired by the real McCoy, and much more affordable third options. Her company began building the app two years ago after heavily researching viewing trends.

Why Am I Curious?

We have seen various attempts into incorporating shoppable content into TV programming, but this to me seems to be one of the more well-thought applications. I am curious to see if this takes off, how it may impact the product placements and the existing payment model for how stylists find clothes for the shows. Since many more people will find out about the brands, will the brands have to pay to be featured on the show? Or can brands demand some say in how their items are featured and who is wearing them? It will be interesting to find out.

Lighting The Way To Sales

South Korea’s largest retailer, E-mart, has rolled out new technology, called E-mart Sale Navigation, to help shoppers find discounted items in its often gargantuan stores. The feature has been incorporated into the retailer’s app and uses Visual Light Communication (VLC) technology.

Shoppers inside E-mart stores install the retailer’s app on their smartphone and then place the smartphone in a holster attached to each shopping cart’s handle. From that position the smartphone receives signals from the store’s LED lighting, directed through a lens in real time. Shoppers see a map of the store and their location, along with directions to nearby discounts. When the cart approaches an on-sale item, the app flashes the coupon on the screen to alert shoppers of the deal.

Why I’m Curious:

I think this is a valuable utilization of VLC technology for marketing purposes. This in-store applicability is a creative way to draw more users to the store’s app. As this technology expands to use in individual stores, perhaps it will show up in malls and shopping centers as a means to attract shoppers looking for a deal.

Shazam Can Now Identify Clothing

Shazam, an app designed to identify songs by listening to them, will now be able to ID clothing seen on television. It would capture the outfit on the screen and direct the user to a site for purchase.

Street Fashion - Day 1 - Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week

Source

Why I’m Curious: I am a big Shazam user. Blame it on my hometown radio DJ for not doing a good job of identifying songs while I recorded them to my mixtape or the age I grew up in when the car dashboard didn’t display the artist and song title. I blame these reasons for why I have no mental database of song titles and artists, which is why Shazam is my best friend. Now pair my need to identify music with my love of all things fashion and you have revolutionized my world, yet again. I’m curious to see if this would help boost retail sales by providing this knowledge, like it does with music purchases. I think every girl has been waiting for an app that is able to identify clothing on the streets, but TV is a great place to start. Celebrity style is becoming more accessible and affordable so it makes sense that there would be a large audience interested. It would also save time trying to search for a similar item online. If they ever come up with an app that identifies “street style” and saves you that awkward moment of having to stop them and ask where they got it, you will have made many wishes come true. However, doesn’t everyone secretly love the positive recognition of their personal style? (They do.)

Google Opens Trial for Same-Day Delivery Service in San Francisco

Confirming rumors that it was to launch its own delivery service to rival Amazon, Google has begun testing its new “Shopping Express” service in the San Francisco Bay Area. Partnering with Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle, and Toys”R”Us, as well as local coffee shops and independent stores, Google will offer early testers six months of free, unlimited same-day delivery.
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Google’s Shopping Express indexes the products available at participating retailers and makes them available to order via Google’s own website. Testers can then book a delivery slot and have their products delivered to them by one of Google’s delivery partners on the same day. There was news about Google Shopping Express earlier in the month, when it was reported that Google would seek to charge a $69 yearly subscription, $10 cheaper than Amazon Prime. Leading the project is Tom Fallows, Google’s e-commerce product manager, who is working to combine Google Wallet and Shopping with offerings from bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Why I’m Curious:  Amazon prime is one of the best inventions I’ve encountered in my daily life, so I’m excited to see how Google will step up to the plate with its innovation. Throughout the year we will begin to see a trend of how the big names, Facebook, Google and Amazon will fight for domination of the e-commerce space, and it is interesting to consider how financial service brands can leverage this changing purchase behavior with possible “Add to Earn” opportunities.

Mobile self-checkout: Wal-Mart extends “scan-and-go” option to more stores

Wal-Mart has added its mobile self-checkout option at 40 Denver-area stores, after launching the first tests of the “scan-and-go” system at stores in four other markets. Shoppers use their smartphones to scan each product’s bar code as they fill their carts, then the application generates a QR code that’s scanned at self-payment kiosks.

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Read more here.

Mechanics: Scan & Go enables a shopper to scan the bar codes on products as she picks the products off shelves and puts them into her shopping cart. The app creates a list of all products scanned. When the shopper has completed shopping, she presses the Done Shopping button and the app generates a custom QR code. The self-checkout terminals scan the QR code on the smartphone, tally the list, and ask the shopper to select a payment option to complete the transaction at the terminal.

Wal-Mart has created a research group in Silicon Valley called @WalmartLabs tasked with developing ways to leverage social media and mobile devices to make shopping at Wal-Mart more appealing. Among the ideas company executives have discussed is posting signs in stores to let shoppers use their smartphones to contact store personnel for help and creating an in-store social network that would let consumers in a store communicate with each other via their mobile handsets.

 

Online Wedding Registry Focuses on Local Stores

From Mashable:

A few years ago, Amada Allen and Robard Williams were planning their wedding and trying to find time to look for the perfect venue and bridal dress. But when it came to figuring out their registry, they found that their options were limited.

“The local shops that we like didn’t have online registries and when we went to the big department stores, we just had a mediocre experience,” Allen told Mashable in an interview.

So in May 2010, Amanda and her husband partnered with web design company Intersect and created NewlyWish, a wedding gift registry service that lets couples create a single gift list from more than 50 handpicked independent shops, brands and artisans across the United States.

The online platform provides a seamless registry creation process by curating items from each shop and offering couples choices that they wouldn’t normally get from large department stores. Couples can choose to add more traditional gifts like kitchen and bath items to their registry, or leisurely gifts that suit their styles like spas, cooking classes or even tickets to a baseball game.

Each registry has a unique URL that couples can share with friends and family. If guests decide not to purchase an item on the registry, they can choose to buy gift certificates that couples can use on the site.

Why Am I Curious?

With the recent focus on Small Business, this immediately got my attention. We all know wedding is big business – over $320B in 2011 alone, and this is such a great way to combine the trend of shopping small and buying artisanal products and the wedding industry together and giving these smaller, local retailers a way into the minds and pockets of the newlyweds and making them a part of the convenience that is the ‘registry’. It is also another example of the small business trend that is predicted to take over in 2013 – which is the rise of digital/tech focused start ups and small businesses to help other small businesses that otherwise cannot necessarily have the resources to get help from bigger data and/or technology providers.

REI Wowed Customers with Video Responses

There’s always a large emphasis on not only responding to customers in real time but also in customizable ways. Sporting goods company, REI, took it a step further during the holidays with custom video responses.

From FastCompany,

The team decided to spice it up and answer some holiday questions on Twitter with video. The program was called #giftpicks. To accomplish that they used Green Vests–the in-store employees who pride themselves on their passion and expertise in various product lines and who are always available to help. Green Vests in multiple stores partnered with REI’s creative team and looked at what might make the best gift suggestion for a particular customer and together came up with the best video response. In 30 to 50 minutes, no less.

Why I’m Curious

Social media has become one of the most important customer service mediums, occasionally with double-digit teams manning computers 24/7 to make sure a question or issue is addressed. Brands are known for their great customer service, usually for their quick response or their quirky sense of humor. I thought it was really interesting the way REI tried to recreate the in-store experience online and wonder how our brands can learn from this.

Want by Svpply Creates Personalized Retail Magazines

Svpply, a product discovery and shopping service has created a new iOS app called Want, which delivers users a daily min-catalog of 50 products from the thousands that are uploaded by the Svpply community of tastemakers.

The app is designed to make it easier for consumers to find products relevant to them. The app prompts users to create a Svpply account log in, which lets Want tell whether to feature men’s, women’s or gender-neutral products in your customized magazine. When you find a recommended item you like, you can click the ‘Buy’ button which takes you to the brand’s website right within the app.

(via Fast Company)

Why I’m Curious

More and more brands are trying to tailor content that is customized to the user, but the big question is whether they can really make it as relatable as the consumer wants. The Want app is a great way for people to browse and find items they are interested in, but whether that becomes a real transaction is another story. I’m curious as to how these services that provide customized content or, in this case, ‘magazines’ will differ to one another and how brand partnerships can come into play.

New Facial Recognition Software Brings Big Data to Any Retailer

– Jordan

From Engadget:

NEC has launched a $880 per month service in Japan that lets merchants profile customers using just a PC and video camera. The system uses facial recognition powered by the company’s cloud computing service to estimate the gender and age of clients, along with the frequency of their shopping expeditions across multiple locations. The firm developed the “NeoFace” tracking software in-house, claiming it was the highest ranked facial recognition system in NIST and that it plans to use it for other services like “intruder surveillance” in the future. NEC added that face data is encrypted so it can’t be “inadvertently disclosed,” and is strictly to help retailers fine-tune their marketing strategies.

Why I’m curious:

The big play up Google and Facebook’s sleeve is big data, they have it and other companies are attempting to snatch it up as well. It is becoming the greatest value asset one can have as the digital and physical worlds continue to collide together forming one Matrix-like world (see our post 2029: When Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact and Burberry’s digital store in London)

But before humans merge with the digital robotic community this application of face recognition can bring personalization to another level when it comes to consumer retailers. Imagine a store clerk that you have never met before knowing your name, age, gender, and what you previously have purchased at their store. With this information they could provide you and anyone else with that ultimate personalized shopping experience.

“Shoppable” streaming video 2.0

YouTube is making its content shoppable. So-called shoppable videos have been around a while (see Target’s Falling For You on Curious Fridays, Sept 28 2012), but actually purchasing the product required a number of clicks.

  • New/Evolved Platform: YouTube’s external annotations technology.
  • Mechanism: The video alerts viewers to items for purchase by showing a muted box over the item. When the box is clicked, a new web page featuring that item opens. The video pauses when that happens, allowing the viewer to browse the shopping page.

At this point, YouTube is offering the technology up for free. But the video site is benefiting from brands like Juicy which are purchasing ads on YouTube to promote the shoppable video. Juicy is putting plenty of muscle behind the ad, with plans for social-media promotion using the hashtag #GiveMeWhatIWant, as well as in-stream ads for the video.

More on AdAge.

 

Esquire Integrates Shoppable Content Into Its December Issue

From PSFK:

Esquire magazine plans on trying something new for its December issue, which is set to hit newsstands November 20th. Using the smartphone app Netpage, readers will be given the option to scan individual pages of the magazine, which can then be viewed on their phones in PDF format. Users can then save, share and in some cases, shop the PDF pages right from their phone’s screen.

What makes Netpage so unique is the fact that unlike many other 2D-barcode and augmented reality apps, it doesn’t require barcodes or watermarks in order to initiate a page scan. Instead, it’s able to recognize images and pull up high-resolution duplicates on users’ phones. What’s more, the PDF’s that are uploaded to the phone can be saved in pieces, whether you want a specific photo, or a full page. If users find something they want to share, they are also given the option to upload the content to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or send it to colleagues via email or SMS.

Esquire has also partnered with MadeCollection.com to come up with a page of goods titled “Great American Things Collection.” Through integration into the Netpage app, the December issue will be completely shoppable, linking the Made Collection store into the content of Esquire’s pages.

Why I am Curious?

In an era where most of the headlines are talking about print as a dying breed, it is  quite innovative how Esquire is trying to expand the lifespan and engagement with the print magazine further into the digital world. There are obvious concerns around making premium print content so readily available online even though a lot of it already exists on esquire.com. However, given that Esquite is planning to make this Netpage add-on an ongoing feature of the magazine, it will be interesting to see if they try to keep it as a feature to support to enhance print experience or try to take advantage of monetization opportunities that can be through brands/advertisers and consumers.

IKEA Introduces AR App

IKEA Now is a new free app that lets users see how furniture will look in your home before you buy them.

From PSFK,

IKEA Now offers the ability to take a photo and read more IKEA product information. Business Insider reports that while you aim your smartphone camera at a certain place within your home, you can pick an item from the app’s catalog and “insert” the augmented reality image.

The first version of the app features the 50 most popular pieces of furniture, but the developers announced they hope to add more as well as integrate social sharing.

Why I’m Curious

IKEA and other furniture stores have offered consumers virtual rooms to see how various pieces could fit into a certain size space. However, IKEA went a step further, allowing consumers to see the room, not a 10-inch version on their computers.

I’m curious to see what happens when social sharing is integrated into the app. Then it will not only allow the user to see how the furniture looks, but also solicit opinions from friends and family. It almost gives buying furniture the quality of buying clothes

Target’s Holiday QR Codes for Toys


via Engadget 

The holiday push is already here. Starting October 14th, Target will introduce QR codes for its top 20 toys. Customers can scan with their mobile device to purchase and have the gift shipped for free to any location in the US.

Target stores will have a special area highlighting 20 of the most sought-after toys tagged with QR codes for one-stop, secret mobile shopping. The program is being targeted at frazzled Moms and Dads who want to purchase presents for their children even when they’re shopping with them. Customers have to install the company’s app to scan the codes and opt-in for free shipping.

Why I’m Curious

When it comes to QR codes, there’s always so much talk about why they won’t last or how to make them cool again. I think Target’s approach to using QR codes for frazzled Moms and Dads is a great example that shows making a QR code relevant and interesting again.

Behavioral story telling integrated with shopping…

A few Curious Fridays ago the topic of selling products within a video experience came up…Here’s a site that hit Europe a few months ago.  It’s interesting because it takes a catalog and combines it with music and a story (through behaviors not spoken word) of the people wearing the clothes.  You can click the clothing people are wearing, pausing the story.  They used to have it so you could seamlessly shop right within the experience, but they now make you click through to their e-commerce website.  Anyways, an interesting evolution of the “J. Peterman Catalog,” except instead of telling the story of clothing items in written word, they are showing it…

Hot sub-culture meets e-commerce:  http://onlybecausewecan.com/

Here’s another somewhat old, but award winning example of sub-culture story-telling (again through behaviors not spoken word): http://origin.grazeourfield.com/asos/urbantour/

The real shopping experience is no longer available, possibly due to to the items no longer being available. Watch the case study video and review the stats when you scroll down.

Here’s an example of a J Peterman catalog posting from the 1960’s:

"Old Skool" J Peterman catalog, telling stories of garments.

“Old Skool” J Peterman catalog, telling stories of garments, back when “telling” was all they could do. Fortunately, we live in an era where we have the opportunity to “show.”

Remember that point, with digital we have the opportunity to show, not just tell.

Wish I was there to talk about this in person!  🙂

– Roshen

Store Trek: Shop From Your Sofa

Online shopping is great since you can do it from the comfort of your own home. But you miss the thrill of scanning the aisles and shelves at the brick and mortar store. So why not combine the best of both worlds and essentially make a shopping video game that results in real purchases? Well, that is exactly what Store Trek is.

UK software company, KeyTree, has created new shopping experience that lets you explore the aisles of the store on your TV using XBox Kinect. The first store taking advantage of this technology? Tesco (of course). (more at 12ahead)

Why I’m Curious

Personally I’m a big fan of online shopping, but no matter how nice a webpage looks, it’s never quite the same as being in the store. The Store Trek program is a really interesting way to tie both experiences together and the initial thrill of a new shopping experience will definitely grab the attention of customers as many of Tesco’s other executions have.

I’m curious to see how an AR experience like this could have more layered on top it – will there be a more social experience next? What about a virtual supermarket sweep?!