Huge shopping research lab analyzes customer behavior
At the recent Shop.org conference in Philadelphia, I sat down with Patricia Waldron, IBM’s director of retail and CPG global industry marketing, and Scott Duby, director global retail solutions, to hear about a new "mega shopping lab" that recently opened in Shanghai, China.
The shopping lab is devoted to analyzing omnichannel consumer behavior and is operated by the giant Fung Group (a mega-conglomerate with a strong presence in retailing and operators of Toys "R" Us, Circle K, and Gieves and Hawkes, to name a few, in Asia.), in partnership with IBM (a RetailWire sponsor) and brand activation firm Pico. The "lab" is actually 250,000 square feet of space at Li Fung Plaza, where select members can shop and businesses can observe how consumers interact with new tech, products and environments. There is a plethora of stores and customer behavior is analyzed by beacons and other store-monitoring devices.
The shopping space/lab includes virtual-reality fitting rooms, "magic" mirrors that bring objects to life, and 3D printing to create customized products. Brands can use the Explorium to understand opportunities in China, based on shopper feedback and its analysis. Fung Group chairman Dr. Victor Fung said, "A key advantage for participating brands and retailers is that, with Explorium, they can experiment, incubate and iterate at high speed while minimizing their cost and risk."
Photo: Fung Group
Personalized and location-based offers are available to shoppers and the idea is to rapidly test omnichannel business strategies in a realistic setting. From each experiment tested, those running the Explorium move to the next iteration. The Explorium currently has 12,000 members and it is a closed group, registered from employees and family of the Fung Group, IBM, and Pico, but plans to open to the public at a later date. The typical member spends three+ hours per trip. Children’s products are an initial focus, but the Explorium plans to feature women’s and men’s apparel soon, along with home products, and will increase the number and variety of experiments, to add to the data collected.
Lab director Simeon Piasecki says China was chosen for the experiment partly because Chinese consumers are setting shopping trends globally and are avid users of digital devices and social media.
Through IBM’s Presence Insights solution, the Explorium and its partners can offer consumers timely, relevant offers and discounts as they move throughout the store.
IBM Presence Insights works by detecting and tracking Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices through their =unique message authentication codes (MAC ID). Then, traffic patterns, stopping points, engagement, and the results of specific displays and promotional campaigns are analyzed. Brands participating so far include Fung’s own Stride Rite, Toonsland, Hello Kitty, and Petit Bateau; along with Global Brands Group’s licensed brands including Nautica, Jeep, and New Balance.
- Unmatched research lab opens in Shanghai – Fung Group/IBM/Pico Far East Holdings Limited/PR Newswire
- Using Analytics to Better Understand Retail – Smarter Planet Blog
- Fung Group Launches World’s First Retail Business Model – South China Morning Post
- IBM Presence Insights – IBM
How well do you think major retailers, as a whole, understand the interaction between online, mobile, and offline behavior? Would it be beneficial for retailers to create shopping labs of their own?