In this subdued retail frenzy called “the Holidays,” a few rather telling and prescient mainstream articles have caught my attention. Why prescient? Because they begin to portend the emergence of an “outeractive” shopping behavior — the digital and physical are blending to create unique experiences.

The first piece of news from Fortune Magazine should not come as a surprise to most of us who are engaged in the digital world:

So far this holiday season, consumers have spent $27.5 billion online, a 12% increase over last year, compared with overall retail growth, which grew just 3 to 4%. And according to the National Retail Federation, e-commerce sales on Black Friday jumped 15% to make up34% of all shopping that day. Meanwhile, daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are reporting banner years, and recently-introduced mobile apps like ShopKick claim rapid adoption, both from consumers and retailers.

Interestingly, the Groupon and LivingSocial mention should not be glossed over. These sites are creating millions of digital-to-physical bridges every single day!

On to the next topic: social currency is hard currency? That’s what Toyota thinks. According to this article on Mashable, it’s giving away $500 for one tweet. That’s right, folks! $500!!!

[That’s] more than 1,000 times the value Eventbrite places on a tweet. The car manufacturer is rewarding those who purchase a new Toyota by January 3 with a $500 debit card for tweeting about it.

To qualify, users need to visit and send the following tweet through Toyota’s application by December 15: “If I get my new Toyota during Toyotathon they’ll give me $500 just for this Tweet. @Toyota #shareathon.” After purchasing a Toyota, owners can redeem their $500 card on the same page.

The goal is to get users who may be even just lightly considering purchasing a Toyota to spread the word about the campaign, even if they don’t end up purchasing one (though we wouldn’t be surprised if those who tweet about the promotion got a little extra attention from Toyota’s marketing team in the next couple of weeks).

If you think that giving away $500 for a tweet seems excessive, I think stunts like this will become unavoidable. That’s because retailers are now on their heels. According to this Wall Street Journal piece:

Until recently, retailers could reasonably assume that if they just lured shoppers to stores with enticing specials, the customers could be coaxed into buying more profitable stuff, too.Now, marketers must contend with shoppers who can use their smartphones inside stores to check whether the specials are really so special, and if the rest of the merchandise is reasonably priced.

"The retailer's advantage has been eroded," says Greg Girard of consultancy IDC Retail Insights, which recently found that roughly 45% of customers with smartphones had used them to perform due diligence on a store's prices. "The four walls of the store have become porous."

I love that last line! “The four walls of the store have become porous.” Notice that they haven’t disappeared altogether. That’s because retailers can still fight back against price parity by creating unique experiences that make spending a bit more worth it, or make the shopping experience more pleasurable than online ease

And finally, here’s a real glimpse into the future – according to the Chicago Tribune:

Stung by the global financial crisis, plugged into social media and worried about the future of the environment, consumers are taking matters into their own hands, finding ways to get what they want without cash and without going to the mall.

The pundits have different names for the phenomenon. Community commerce. Secondhand nation. Conscious consuming. Meshing. Whatever the label, a new shopping mindset has sprouted from the recession where access to goods trumps ownership, and consumers create their own rules.

A profiled company called ThredUp “began as an adult clothing swap site in September 2009 but changed its focus to children's clothing in April. In October, it held a Halloween costume swap. It has 50,000 registered members and swaps more than 1,000 boxes of clothing a week. As of Wednesday, there were more than 5,000 boxes listed on the site, including more than 300 containing toys….

ThredUp works like this: A potential buyer browses "boxes" on the site, makes a selection and pays $5 plus shipping per box, typically bringing the total to about $15. Senders list the items in the boxes. ThredUp provides the shipping boxes and labels, as well as scheduling the home pickup.

The company, advised by Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings, claims to save the average family $569 a year and estimates its clothing and toy swaps will save families a combined $500,000 in spending over the holidays. Next year, ThredUp is looking into working with, a network of local groups, to host face-to-face swaps for bigger items such as strollers and children's skis.

See that? Face-to-face swaps. Hmmm. That’s pretty experiential. Here’s to the Outeractive Future.

And Happy New Year!

One comment

  1. OH MAN!!! Fabulous post! You have expertly summarized many of the things we’re telling people, especially the part “…retailers can still fight back against price parity by creating unique experiences that make spending a bit more worth it…”. In fact we have a blog post coming up soon that focuses on just that issue! The blurring of the lines is well underway. A lot of people in the industry are divided into camps like, mobile, web, social, etc. and are comfortable in those pockets. It’s clearly a cross platform EXPERIENCE that consumers will either seek-out or create for themselves because they will consume information and brand experiences in the ways that they choose. Those of us comfortable being labeled “experiential marketers” know that the consumer experience is without walls and needs to be felt anywhere and everywhere ubiquitously, or as you put it “outeractive(ly)”.

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