Called The Wall at McCain Mall, the virtual store concept presents a wall graphic with a distinct retail storefront appearance. Products, services and other offers are displayed as items on store shelves. Each product display has a QR code and price tag. When scanned, the user is taken to the online purchase point for that product. Payment is made with credit card or PayPal, and the product is delivered directly to the customer's door (in most cases for free).
The Wall was created by CustomXM, a North Little Rock-based marketing and digital print provider specializing in targeted, direct marketing utilizing QR codes and other multi-channel technology.
"Virtual shopping is the next retail frontier, and CustomXM is excited to be the first to bring it to Arkansas," said Paul Strack, president of CustomXM. "With the extremely high adoption rate of smartphones among consumers of all ages, it only makes since that retailers begin offering their products in this way. Virtual shopping with the use of your phone is simple and immediate. We anticipate The Wall's advertisers will see immediate results, while consumers walk away with a fast and satisfactory shopping experience."
Although the virtual shopping trend is new to Arkansas, it has proven very successful in large U.S. cities and in other countries. The most noted example of a virtual store is grocery retailer Tesco, which set up in a Korean metro station. The company's objective was to grow its customer base without increasing the number of stores and to help expedite the grocery shopping experience for the busy consumer. Tesco's experiment was a tremendous success, increasing online sales by 130 percent. This led many other retailers to test the concept in Europe, Australia and North America.
In the United States, Resultco -- a marketing company specializing in the distribution of fashion watches -- utilized empty window displays in downtown Detroit to showcase its products and allow consumers to make purchases from the display using QR codes. Toys "R" Us has also opened virtual stores in New York, catering to Christmas shoppers on the go. Likewise, Sears is installing shopping walls in airports, movie theatres and lobbies.
It's a trend that looks set to continue. IBM Coremetrics published research earlier this year showing that last October mobile purchases were up 3.4 percent over the previous year.
The Wall at McCain Mall offers retailers, nonprofit organizations, agencies and other organizations the opportunity to maximize their brand exposure and reach more potential customers without increasing their brick and mortar presence.
"We've seen the success of e-commerce," Strack said. "Virtual shopping is an extension of this, allowing brands to reach consumers without the added overhead and expense of a physical location. Particularly, with The Wall, brands that are not currently represented in one of Arkansas' largest malls, can now have an ongoing presence."
Recent statistics reveal that:
- 43% of smartphone owners used their device while in a store for shopping purposes.
- Mobile shopping sales reached $9 billion in 2011.
- 1 in 5 consumers scanned bar codes using smartphones during the last holiday season.
- 85% of merchants say mobile commerce is a focus in 2012.
The Wall is adjacent to JCPenney and the food court at McCain Mall, which attracts 8 million visitors per year. The center court is home to Santa, the Easter Bunny, fashion shows and numerous events throughout the year.
Current retailers on The Wall include Buds-N-Bows Florist, Happy Thoughts Personalized Gifts, Lyon College, Petit Jean Meats, Riverside Subaru, Omaha Steaks, Better Beginnings and Heifer International.
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