Digital Pop-Ups Bring Black Friday Shopping Into the Subway

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As Black Friday continues going global, the quest to make shoppers embrace online/offline omnichannel shopping this holiday is moving underground.

British retailer Argos, the UK’s biggest High Street retailer online, has opened its first Underground store at London’s Cannon Street Tube station as a click-and-collect depot during the holiday season in partnership with Transport for London (TfL).

The underground Argos Collect store offers access to 20,000 products, pitching convenience to time-pressed commuters, who make an average of 4.2 million journeys on the London Underground every day, with the enticing prospect that all products ordered by 1pm can be picked up on the go within hours.[more]

“Digital shoppers are increasingly demanding improved choice, convenience and speed in the fulfilment of their online orders, especially via click and collect; the collection of their online orders from a conveniently located shop. Argos has been a click and collect leader, and we continue to innovate our offer with our new digital stores,” commented John Walden, CEO of Argos parent company, Home Retail Group.

“They represent what we believe will be the role of the Argos store in an emerging digital future: modern and energetic, with larger ranges available within hours, tablets for easy browsing and ordering, streamlined in-store customer journeys including 60-second Fast Track collection of online purchases, and a friendly human face to provide personalised customer service.”

We’ve gone Underground at @TfLOfficial #CannonStreet station with our first Argos Collect store! pic.twitter.com/ks2FtruqrQ

— Argos (@Argos_Online) November 25, 2014

Walden added:

“Our new Argos Collect format at the Cannon Street Underground station will complement our other Argos digital store trials, including converted traditional Argos stores, small format digital stores, and concessions in select Homebase stores; nearly 50 in total in place for Christmas. Because of our innovative new ‘hub and spoke’ distribution network, we can now provide over 20,000 products to any of our locations within hours, regardless of the stocking capacity of each individual store. The combination of ‘hub and spoke’ with our multiple digital store formats will provide Argos with cost-effective options to potentially serve many more customers through many new locations in the future.”

The subway store is the smallest shop Argos has opened in its 42-year history, about the size of a large kitchen in a family home. It’s also part of companywide facelift as the retailer cranks up efforts to modernise and compete with the likes of Amazon.

TfL has tested click-and-collect shopping with grocery stores—Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and Amazon.co.uk—in a test of that saw subway riders place 10,000 orders to lockers on their commute route.

Argos also launched a Tinder-like holiday wish app this holiday, dubbed the Gift Finder, the world’s first swipe-to-like shopping web app. The app incorporates a Facebook game, Friend or Fraud, that lets users log in, build a wish list and test friends on how well they know them by guessing their selection by wiping left or right.

While Argos is upping its omnichannel prowess to take on Amazon, its online shopping rival is also moving underground across the Atlantic.

Amazon is now the first retailer to create digital pop-up shops in New York’s MTA subway system, using 90 digital kiosks to offer holiday shopping in the city’s transit system, which sees 1.2 million riders every day.

The interactive displays using Control Group’s “On the Go” MTA kioks will run through Dec. 23. New Yorkers can now see Amazon’s promos running on 100 47-inch screens in 12 stations, including Grand Central Station, Union Square and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The swipe-able screens offer a curated list of electronic holiday gifts from Bose, Samsung, Sony and Belkin, with one screen tap delivering real-time pricing, then can scan a code or send a text message or email for an Amazon.com link for an above-ground purchase.

“This new platform was born out of a belief that the future of advertising should be aligned, targeted, helpful, and more importantly transactional, creating an urban retail experience,” Control Group associate Damian Gutierrez commented. “This is the evolution of the pop-up store, where customers can make a purchase whenever and wherever they want.”

While underground digital shopping has been tested in other subway settings, including Tesco’s Homeplus virtual grocery store in South Korea and last year’s Uniqlo pop-up in NYC’s Union Square subway station, the Amazon and Argos tests represent a major effort to bring shopping to urban dwellers where you’re likely to catch them—riding the subway.

With holiday sales expected to spike to $616.9 billion in the U.S. alone, according to the National Retail Federation, “Incorporating technology into shopping centers is of paramount importance for a lot of owners and developers right now,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, to the Washington Post. “You are seeing retailers become far more innovative now than in any holiday season past.” 

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