Brick and mortar retailers are waking up to the fact that they're competing against online retailers, and are now doing plenty of things to try to make the in-store shopping experience better or to merge the two, in yet another example of how the analog and digital worlds are merging. The latest can be seen in plans by Circuit City to really change the way they handle selling products to customers. On the web side, they want to go beyond "buy online, pickup at the store" (which they already offer) to "buy online, have a Circuit City employee, wearing Circuit City clothes in a Circuit City van deliver the product to you." Even more interesting, though, is the idea of handing out a set of headphones to every customers who walks in the store that tracks their locations and feeds them additional info about products, offers special promotions and can connect users to a live sales representative. That's right, rather than having an in-store employee tapping you on the shoulder to see if you found everything you were looking for, that sales person may be completely virtual or possibly based in a call center halfway around the world. Obviously, if you don't want that, it's pretty simple to agree not to put the headphones on at all. What's more interesting, though, is to take this concept one step further. Why do you need Circuit City's headphones? Why not do it over your mobile phone, and have it be sales people at a different store with offers to entice you to buy from them instead. Or, even, a comparison shopping service that can tell you that if you leave the Circuit City right now and go to Best Buy down the street, they'll promise you a 10% discount on that TV you're looking at. Obviously, the store owners won't like the idea of a "competitive" sales person in the store with them, but it's hard to see how they'll ban all mobile phones in their stores without losing a lot of customers.
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