With online and in-store shopping established, eBay aims to tackle the space in between with a virtual store.
Picture this: A busy professional on her lunch break spots the perfect summer jacket in a store. But with the clock ticking there's no time to try it on, so she quickly returns to work and forgets the item.
Up until now, that customer would have represented a missed opportunity for a brick-and-mortar business. But eBay's new "shoppable windows"--9 feet by 2 feet screens placed on the front windows of stores--could help solve that problem.
The virtual stores will open from June 8 through July 7 in New York City, selling 30 items from Kate Spade Saturday, a new line of apparel from Fifth & Pacific.
The goal is to blur the line between shopping in your pajamas and in-store, says Steve Yankovich, vice president of innovation and new ventures at eBay. "This is the first element to kind of having this ecommerce-like experience but in a physical space."
For retailers, the windows offer a way to connect with customers who might otherwise pass them by. They'll also showcase more inventory than a physical space permits and can breathe new life into an otherwise dull item.
"It's hard to sell bedding if you just have sheets in a package on a shelf," Yankovich notes.
Above all, "it's an extension of the retailer, an intersection of the physical product, physical space, and the sort of checkout, complete-the-purchase of e-commerce," he says.
Currently eBay is testing the windows with larger companies to help fund their research and perfect the technology. But the product could move into every sector of retail, especially smaller boutiques.
"In the traditional model, if a customer walks in and doesn’t buy, the retailer doesn’t know they exist," says Amanda Coffee, an eBay spokesperson. "Even with credit card information, it's very minimal" But with the shoppable windows, retailers will gather "more detail that can help you understand the customer."
If you're interested in trying the platform, Yankovich says the best way to prepare is by adopting some PayPal technology, as that's what the shoppable windows will use to make sales.
Do you think the shoppable windows could help your business?
JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City. @Jules5168