Physical stores are feeling the push to fight the web for customers — but it wasn’t until recently that department stores started joining the game. Now, in an effort to combat the problems shoppers have with physical stores — they’re overwhelming, or inaccessible, or understocked, to name a few — several big-name department stores are adding tech-heavy initiatives to help out shoppers. Here’s a rundown:
- London’s 1 million-square-feet Harrods flagship is launching a free iPhone app, which will have an interactive in-store GPS. No more crowding around those limited elevator maps!
- In a particularly customer-friendly spin, the app will also offer menus for all 29 of the store’s restaurant menus.
- Macy’s is adding free wi-fi at all its stores over the next few months (for smartphone users without unlimited data plans).
- Macy’s also launched a program called Search and Send, to let in-store shoppers find a particular product at Macy’s locations around the country if their local branch doesn’t have the item in stock.
This last point is notable — it’s a new way to do something that has traditionally been left to sales associates (so are stores also edging out the need for sales clerks in general?). We for one would be happy to use the app to look up items ourselves, and save the time spent looking for a sales associate or waiting at a register.
What we really have to wonder is what’s to prevent the same shoppers from skipping the department store altogether and simply heading to the Internet? It’s a gesture of good will for stores to be launching apps etc. — but the real question still remains: Are any of these apps actually increasing sales?