NEW YORK — Retailers are connecting their physical stores with the digital world, said panelists atthe Wharton Interactive Retailing conference.

Best Buy Co. Inc., for example, is testing aservice from startup shopkick that will identify exactly where shoppers are in a store usinga unique ultrasonic fingerprint from their cellular phone. The purpose of the opt-in servicewould be to deliver relevant messages basedon physical context.

“We’re trying to take out of store traffic drivers and tie that to the in-store experience,” saidBest Buy senior director of interactive marketing and emerging media Tracy Benson.Messaging must be focused around a realcustomer need, she continued. “Deals and specials are one of the top reasons customers wantto hear from you,” she said.Customers who want to know more about aproduct in the store can send a text message toa number posted on every product tag and callup customer reviews, price comparisons andspecifications for that product on their phones.

Best Buy has partnered with Google Inc.to make sure relevant local store informationpops up when anyone does a search on theirmobile phone. so, for example, if someonewere out for a run and typed a search for “Boseheadphones” into Google on an iPhone, thenearest Best Buy location and product information about Bose headphones would pop up.

“We’re using things that are mainstream behaviors to drive local traffic,” she explained. Thecompany has looked at Foursquare, a location-based game and social network that is getting alot of attention for its retail tie-ins, but concluded the site is as of yet too “early adopter.” so far,only three to five people are checking into eachBest Buy store, she said. Marc Jacobs has beenon the service since New York Fashion Weekand has gotten more than 100 check-ins for mostof its New York stores.

Best Buy constantly tests as many things aspossible as quickly as possible because technology changes every 30 days, she said. Thecompany uses Twitter for customer service, soanyone with a question in a store or at homecan instantly have an answer even if they can’tfind a store employee.Video has emerged as a powerful tool andcorrelates with higher engagement and purchase rates, she added.The company is testing retargeting and hasfound it is three times as effective as generaldisplay advertising.

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