macys sears walgreen social commerce

Macy’s, Sears & Walgreens Join the Social Commerce Party

In the lead up to holiday season, big US retailers are jumping on the social commerce train.

First up, is department store Macy’s, which, taking a cue from Diesel’s Diesel Cam and Jeanswest’s Butt Cam is trialing a Magic Fitting Room – a Facebook-connected camera-enhanced 72″ mirror in the fitting room of its lead store in New York (Herald Square).  Try on gear, take a snap – and friend-source feedback on whether you should buy it.

Macy’s first showcased the magic mirror idea back in 2007, but the new news with Macy’s magic fitting room in 2010 is gesture control and iOS (iPhone, iPod, and iPad) connectivity – allowing you to scroll through product inventory on the mirror or on your Apple device – and virtually try on gear by flicking it across to your reflection on the mirror and superimposing it on what you see.

Does Macy’s magic fitting room fall into the Gibsonian ‘the future’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed’ camp? It’s probably more PR stunt (for New York’s fashion week) than the social retail solution (that’s scalable and cost-effective), but it does build on a big trend the fusion of digital and in-store retail.

Next up is Walgreens, the nationwide US drugstore chain (7541 outlets), that has just announced it will be enhancing how it deploys customer ratings and reviews on its e-commerce site with Bazaarvoice‘s SEO-friendly SearchVoice Inline and BrandVoice network. The new solution will add a social layer to the Walgreens site by pulling in product reviews from third-party sites, combining them with home-grown reviews and automatically place the content of the first four reviews directly into the pages’ code — making product pages more “findable” by search engines and bringing customers right into the purchase path.

Less sexy than Macy’s magic fitting room, Walgreens new social layer allows trusted and authentic product conversations to take place on product pages is a proven solution to increase conversion rates, lower return rates, and improve brand loyalty. A safe social commerce step.

Finally, we have department store Sears who have given their website a social shopping makeover by adding a social layer that allows you to “message” and “follow” other users, see their profiles and their onsite social activity, like products (as well as dislike, want and own them), and join groups.

John Eckman from Optaros offers a smart review, noting the somewhat peculiar decision not to integrate the MySears community “get advice before you buy” microsite into this new social layer – but given the slowness of the site with the new social layer added as is – perhaps it’s understandable.  So we’re left with a somewhat schizophrenic experience – go offsite to a microsite for advice before you shop, and then go onsite to buy – informing your final decision with likes, dislikes etc.  Is this making it easier for the customer to shop smarter?  Or is it a case of social getting in the way of commerce.  Time will tell.

In my view, adding social layers to e-commerce sites are good when they give good SEX – they make shopping Smarter, Easier and eXciting.

Whilst Sears social shopping layer is an interesting attempt re-create Facebook functionality onsite, it doesn’t have the elegant simplicity of deploying Facebook social plugins – as Amazon and Levis have done (and indeed on MySears with Facebook social sign-on).  It also requires a whole lot of user activity and content to be useful.  But then, the development budget would have been less if they had built on existing services – and we wouldn’t want that would we?