The holiday shopping season is revving up and already there’s a jingle in the air — and it’s not coming from some flying sleigh.
The sales process is changing.
It’s no longer clicks vs. bricks, online shopping vs. the in-store experience.
Those two worlds are converging right before our wallets.
As Abha Bhattarai’s cover story this week attests, retailers are getting wise to our desire to marry the power of technology to our hunger for things new.
Our smartphones (and soon our watches) are replacing our purses. Tablets are the new cash registers. We can plop down in front of a computer and customize our purchase, right in the shop.
The pace of this transformation is picking up speed, and few sectors are immune. Even longtime digital retailers are moving to open physical stores. We’re just at the beginning of this wave, and it is not clear who will be the ultimate winners. But there’s no denying the momentum; we’re indoctrinating the next generation early.
That’s at least the conclusion I reached when Abha told me about the experience of meeting the shopping mall Santa at Tysons Corner Center. I’ll let her tell you:
“The entrance to Santa’s workshop is flanked by two large-screen TVs and a tablet-toting concierge. A digital naughty-or-nice-o-meter helps Ol’ St. Nick determine who’s been good or bad by displaying children’s names on large screens. The route to Santa’s sleigh (outfitted with twin turbo engines) includes an “Elfie Selfie” station and “Elf-ray vision” tablet games and mobile apps for children.
“We had to ride a fine line,” said Dawn Banket, assistant vice president of marketing for Macerich, which owns the mall. “We didn’t want to make it so modern and beyond what the traditional experience was that we were risking pushing away customers.”
“Instead of waiting in long lines, customers can schedule visits online or by using a mobile app.
“The mall is one of 10 Macerich shopping centers throughout the country to introduce the high-tech Santa HQ this year. Traffic at those malls is already up 45 percent so far this year compared with the same period last year, according to Banket.
“From an age perspective, we’ve broadened our customer base,” she said. “We’re already thinking about next year.”
We used to fret about the commercialization of Christmas. Now technology is taking over our traditions.