Digital World Now Coaxing Shoppers Back to Stores

No longer antagonists, the online and offline camps are joining forces.

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NEW YORK — No longer antagonists, the online and offline camps are joining forces.

For the first time since the fashion industry’s (initially tepid) adoption of everything digital a few years ago — from e-commerce, to mobile, to social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest — the focus is on getting consumers back into the stores.

Ironically, software developers are unleashing tools designed to get foot traffic into physical retail locations.

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Digital is central to the equation — as the extensive reach and power of online has the capacity to give consumers immediate information and the extra push they might need to make their way into brick-and-mortar shops.

Forrester Research predicts that, by 2016, more than half of the dollars spent in domestic retail will be influenced by the Internet — and it’s the brands and retailers who adopt the most cohesive cross-channel strategies that will excel both on and offline, according to a Cross Channel Retail Forecast released earlier this month. Forrester’s research estimates that, by 2016, the volume of sales occurring in physical stores as a result of Web research will reach $1.67 billion — or 52 percent of total retail sales.

For 2011, that number was $978 million and, for Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, illustrates that the effects of “showrooming” have been “blown out of proportion.” Translation: While e-commerce transactions garner much attention (and will continue to do so), online shopping will only help — and not eclipse — in-store sales.

“The reality is that the vast majority of sales are still offline and that’s where most impulse purchasing happens, in the physical store,” Mulpuru said. “But at the same time, more consumers have their mobile phones in hand so retailers who recognize that and take advantage of the phone as an information conduit to direct people to the right stores, or to find what they’re looking for at any moment in time, will be better served to succeed.”

She believes that retailers must bring the two channels together to amplify sales in the long run, which is the goal for LightSpeed, Snapette, the “SAP In-Store Product Lookup” mobile app and a soon-to-be-launched closed network intended for use by luxury retailers created by King & Partners.

On June 12, WWD reported that Montreal-based retail management software company LightSpeed received $30 million in funding from Accel Partners, which also invested in Facebook and Groupon, and today the company revealed an exclusive partnership with the Nordstrom Inc.-owned Treasure & Bond.

“We want to bring elements from the e-commerce experience to the store with a human touch, which e-commerce can’t compete with. It gives the store a leg up in terms of what they can offer. This update to our iPad product adds a whole layer of cross-selling tools,” said Dax Dasilva, LightSpeed’s chief executive officer.

Treasure & Bond is the first retailer to experiment with the software company’s tools, designed to help complete a transaction, a “show and tell” feature and a “related items” section that pops up when a sales associate is interacting with a consumer to show corresponding items that might be located in a different part of the store. There is also a way to browse by category.

“To browse supplemental items like accessories and jewelry with a customer when they are trying on apparel is key. This way they [sales associates] can grab the things they know you [the consumer] like best to finish the look,” Treasure & Bond general manager Paige Boggs said. “Being able to work throughout the store in a more robust mobile capacity is really such a luxury.”

And although Treasure & Bond’s parent company is a major retailer, Mulpuru contends that solutions such as LightSpeed allow smaller boutiques (such as SoHo’s Saturdays Surf) to have “endless aisle capabilities” in store. “[It] seems like a no-brainer to me,” she said.

Today will also see the official launch of Snapette, an iPhone and iPad app that’s been in beta mode since last August that helps users find apparel and accessories in local stores by reaching customers that are already out and shopping. It’s received $1.5 million in funding to date. The site is concentrated in New York City, but founders Sarah Paiji and Jinhee Kim plan to service different cities with participating brands and retailers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Tokyo and London.

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