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Ecommerce: Retailers play tag

PowaTag, which allows any advert to be turned into a buying opportunity, is being snapped up by retailers hoping to capitalise on the ability to fast-track sales and payments.

PowaTag enables retailers to display tags in print, on websites or embedded within audio and visual adverts, so when shoppers use phones to scan or ‘listen’ to them they are immediately directed to a transactional website. It has two aims: to speed up the online shopping checkout process - preventing frustrated consumers from abandoning purchases at the checkout page - and enabling brands to get a real-time return on investment from advertising campaigns as shoppers go directly from the tag to a transactional website.

Just three months in, more than 475 retailers have signed up, including Fat Face, Kurt Geiger, Reiss, Henry Holland, Laura Ashley and Ted Baker. Most are still devising ways to implement the technology to suit their businesses, with many planning trials before Christmas. But womenswear retailer Comptoir des Cotonniers is leading the pack as the first to roll out PowaTag on any scale.

It launched the Fast Shopping project, comprised of 10,000 ‘virtual boutiques’ - scannable tags on adverts placed across France - on May 28, and the three-week trial ended last week. Tags linked to specific items on its website were embedded into adverts on bus shelters, billboards, magazines, in taxis and on cafe table tops.

Comptoir des Cotonniers’s ebusiness, CRM and customer service director Valérie Dassier said the opportunity to transform any location into a point of sale meant “the possibilities are now unlimited”.

“Anywhere can become a store that can be accessed anywhere and at any time,” she says. “We opened 10,000 virtual stores overnight. The boutique comes directly to the client: impulse buying can now be captured with an ultra-secure payment. This is a revolution.”

Comptoir des Cotonniers declined to provide figures on any sales uplift following the project, but said the results were “beyond our expectations” and that it “certainly has made a big buzz”.

“We are convinced that Fast Shopping is a growth lever of our business model,” Dassier adds.

Comptoir des Cotonniers’ parent company Fast Retailing is preparing to roll out a second PowaTags project in November, which is expected to once again include Comptoir des Cotonniers and possibly some of its other brands, including lingerie brand Princesse Tam Tam.

In the UK, The Cambridge Satchel Company is preparing to roll out PowaTag technology next month. It will embed the tags on its website to speed up the payment process, and in time will add them to products in shops, window displays and print adverts.

The brand’s IT and graphics design manager Chloe King explains: “The advantage would be streamlining the payment process - it goes from a standard ecommerce purchase that can sometimes take several minutes to a very speedy transaction with PowaTag. The app saves all payment and delivery details, so users do not have to enter these again - it really does speed up purchase time. It also allows you to purchase something when you do not have easy access to your card or you are on a public computer and don’t wish to put your details in.”

TV celebrities Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, who sell their shapewear underwear brand Trinny & Susannah - The Original Magic Knickers online and wholesale in about 30 countries, are also using the technology. Tags have been embedded on their website’s product pages to speed up transactions, as well as on physical clothing labels. They are now considering including them on packaging.

“[PowaTag is] taking it to another level in terms of ease to buy,” says Woodall. “We shop in very different ways now. It’s about instant gratification. If the tag is in the window or on [clothing] labels, and theshopper goes into the store but they don’t have the right size, scanning the tag will take them to the website.”

She says tags in window displays would enable shoppers to buy items that catch their eye even when the store is shut, while tags on clothing and packaging would help people find websites when they might otherwise struggle to remember the specific address.

“People are starting to use it. It’s a critical mass situation; I can’t wait for it to take off,” she adds. One sports retailer is also understood to be considering putting the tags on trainers, so when a new pair is needed consumers can simply scan the tag and order a replacement.

PowaTag founder Dan Wagner is confident about its take-up: “It’s gone mad in a greatly positive way. It will be the de facto modern standard for mobile payments within a year. It’s a retail revolution. For example, now when Jennifer Aniston walks past on screen wearing something, you can hold up your phone and buy her dress. That’s possible. Anything seen on screen can have a tag on it. There are so many elements that can be specific to a brand’s needs.”

To read more about PowaTag, go to www.drapersonline.com/powatag

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