business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times this morning reports on technology that is being employed to allow customers to indulge their shopping impulses, being able to instantly order something they see in a magazine or on a television program, or replenish something that they have in their refrigerators or larders.

Today, the Times writes, "MasterCard plans to announce a partnership with Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue, Wired, Vanity Fair and other popular magazines, that will allow digital readers to instantly buy items described in an article or showcased in an advertisement by tapping a shopping cart icon on the page. The partnership, called ShopThis, will begin in the November tablet edition of Wired, due on Oct. 15.

"Peapod, an online grocer in the Northeast and Midwest that provides home delivery, recently developed a feature on its mobile app that allows customers to restock household staples by scanning bar codes with their smartphones at home."

The Times goes on to report that "this push for immediate retail gratification is occurring as the delivery wars are escalating among some of the biggest e-commerce companies in a dash to get orders to consumers as fast as possible.

EBay and Amazon have initiated same-day service in a handful of cities. Walmart has been looking at ways to use its 4,000 stores as distribution points to fulfill orders the same day to customers outside major metropolitan areas. Even Google has gotten into the act with Google Shopping Express, a program that allows Northern California residents from San Francisco to San Jose to receive deliveries within hours of ordering from numerous local and national merchants."

Meanwhile, in another take on impulse shopping, the Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Canadian movie theater chain Cineplex is experimenting with a concept called SuperTicket, "which bundles admission to a movie with a digital copy of the film, delivered electronically months later. The experimental bundle costs more than twice as much as a regular movie ticket ... By selling a theatrical ticket and home-video copy simultaneously, studios can consolidate costly marketing campaigns that usually promote the same movie twice, first in theaters and then again for home video. The upside for theater operators, meanwhile, is that they typically don't benefit from home video sales or other revenue a movie generates after its theatrical run, but they get a cut when tickets and home video are bundled."

A similar initiative is slated to be tested in the US later this year, though the program is likely to be tweaked to make it both more seamless and more understandable to consumers.

I think these are fascinating developments, long in the making, that have the potential of redefining the relationship between shoppers and the brands they trust, desire, and consume. It will be up to retailers to figure out how to be part of these transactions, because it is not hard to imagine that in some cases, the new initiatives will have the effect of disintermediating traditional retailers.

I would suggest that in the case of the movie theaters selling digital copies, it might make sense to do so after people see the movie in addition to before ... it might have the impact of promoting impulse sales at the moment when these patrons are highest on the experience.

The whole thing, I think, is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: