Augmented Reality for Retail Advertising

Featuring Layar, a scanning app for print media, adding more digital layers to your shopping and reading experience.

layar logo v2

We were excited to try out our print advertising for Designer Deals Downtown in the November and December editions in the first local magazine in Pittsburgh, and nationally, to use this new technology in their printed media.

Find NightWire every month at a local distributor and download the app to view more to the ads: videos, websites, and deals!


Want to know more about how to use this new technology for your retail business? Email pghretail [at] for your first free consulting meeting.


Future of Retail, Pt 6

For decades the mystery shopper was the main way retailers assessed operations from a customer’s point of view. By sending in a fake shopper, typically once a month, an individual store essentially was buying a dozen performance snapshots per year. Then telephone surveys began to supplement mystery shopping. Today, digital technologies are supplanting both, with online customer surveys providing an exponentially greater number of performance snapshots per day.

A well-managed loop that links customer experience feedback with recommendations on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, can boost service quality and operational performance, increase traffic and create more happy customers — people who crow about a retailer online for free, turning their friends into new customers too.

A new mini-industry has emerged using these techniques, known as “customer experience management,” or CEM. Our company, Empathica — as well as a number of competitors — are providing customer feedback to operations, while partnering with “web-scraping” companies to listen to random chatter online.


Read the full article here —>

Future of Retail, Pt 5

A person with a smart phone can scan a bar code in Best Buy or Macy’s, check the price, and order from Amazon or Target on the spot. So Amazon could receive an order from a customer that was stimulated to buy while in Best Buy.

This may revolutionize retailing and cause considerable consternation and ultimately dislocation for several players.

Remember when the Internet arrived and customer who was savvy gained the power to check prices of all the options. Especially for durables, that power led to sensitivity to prices and resulting price pressures.


Read the full article here —>

Future of Retail, Pt 4

“Like many men, I’ve never been very enthusiastic about shopping.

That’s partly because I’m frugal, and don’t enjoy spending money. It’s partly due to the hassles I associate with visiting retail stores — a series of inconveniences that begins in the parking lot (hunting for spaces), continues in the aisles (where I can never find what I need), and ends at the cash registers (where I have little patience for long lines).

Much of the problem, though, lies in psychology. While I can be confident of my decision-making skills in other areas of life, my shopping decisions are often plagued by second-guessing, paralysis, and buyer’s remorse. Even when I recognize the need for a product — I’ve been looking for a good pair of lace-up black shoes for three months — I often put it off, afraid of making a decision I’ll regret.

In the last year, however, I’ve noticed these problems are ebbing. I don’t dread shopping as much as I used to. At times, I’m even starting to enjoy it. Upon reflection, I attribute this attitude adjustment to a simple phenomenon: I’m becoming armed with better information.”

Read the full article here —>

Future of Retail, Pt 3

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday were successful days for the retail sector, these two days alone are not a panacea to the sector’s performance challenges. Some retailers will continue this momentum. Others will not. The difference between the two sets of retailers? Knowing when and how to act as the water around you gets hot.

In our world, there are two kinds of frogs — those that jump out of the pot when it’s boiling and those that boil. Smart retailers jump out of the pot before it boils. They are keenly aware of changing conditions on the ground. And they don’t allow personal opinions about the cause behind the changing conditions to stand in the way of decisions and actions.

The global push to meet today’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same is one such boiling pot for retailers. Some are ignoring customer interest in all things environmental and social. Smart retailers, on the other hand, have realized the water around them is getting hot and they are proactively taking action. As a result, these retailers are cutting costs today, planting growth seeds for tomorrow, and setting the stage for accelerated strategic agility well into the future.

Read the full article here —>

The Future of Retail, Pt 2

“It’s a snowy Saturday in Chicago, but Amy, age 28, needs resort wear for a Caribbean vacation. Five years ago, in 2011, she would have headed straight for the mall. Today she starts shopping from her couch by launching a videoconference with her personal concierge at Danella, the retailer where she bought two outfits the previous month. The concierge recommends several items, superimposing photos of them onto Amy’s avatar. Amy rejects a couple of items immediately, toggles to another browser tab to research customer reviews and prices, finds better deals on several items at another retailer, and orders them. She buys one item from Danella online and then drives to the Danella store near her for the in-stock items she wants to try on.

As Amy enters Danella, a sales associate greets her by name and walks her to a dressing room stocked with her online selections—plus some matching shoes and a cocktail dress. She likes the shoes, so she scans the bar code into her smartphone and finds the same pair for $30 less at another store. The sales associate quickly offers to match the price, and encourages Amy to try on the dress. It is daring and expensive, so Amy sends a video to three stylish friends, asking for their opinion. The responses come quickly: three thumbs down. She collects the items she wants, scans an internet site for coupons (saving an additional $73), and checks out with her smartphone.

As she heads for the door, a life-size screen recognizes her and shows a special offer on an irresistible summer-weight top. Amy checks her budget online, smiles, and uses her phone to scan the customized Quick Response code on the screen. The item will be shipped to her home overnight.”

Read the full article here —>

The Future of Retail, Pt 1

“Between 1994 and 2011, the number of farmers markets across the United States grew from 1,755 to 7,175. While much of this growth is likely due to a broader understanding of the importance of eating local, fresher, and seasonal, I also suspect that it is driven by a desire of many people to shop differently — in pleasant family-friendly contexts that enable low-key, face-to-face interactions with merchants. A parallel trend is the rise of the food truck movement. In research we conducted earlier this year on the future of commerce, we found that people gravitate towards these kinds of “pop-up” vendor experiences because of the more personal qualities they provide — getting to know the vendor, suggestions for making the most of a purchase, or even just a certain quirkiness. In other words, these are fundamentally more human retail experiences.”

Read the full article here—>

New Wave of Contract Work

The Bay area and L.A. have seen a flourish of “runners” or contract-workers for hire websites that allow individuals and businesses to post paying tasks. TaskRabbit has totally capitalized on this wave of, exonerating or exploiting, the lack of work by building a platform that is expanding rapidly throughout the nation’s metro areas.

I personally saw the wonderful side of this first, like peer-2-peer car sharing, it’s a tool to utilize our under-utilized assets for a profit. Imagine if Pittsburgh small-retailers were able to get the assistance they needed, when they needed it, as they grow without breaking the bank. Starting a business is tough. Is it tougher than starting a family? Ask a full-time mom if she’d like to be able to get some assistance now and again. Many of these services are menial labor or errand running, posted by middle-to-high earning individuals and bid on by ‘runners’ who have been interviewed and cleared as compatible to the workforce requirements. The lowest bidder typically wins, and where it does bring the community together over the exchange of a dollar, there is likely a chance of misunderstanding and plain old abuse.

Of course being the largest of these providers, TaskRabbit has had the first penalty thrown at them. Read the “TaskRabbit Confessions” from the
A journalist tries out three different task providing services: Taskrabbit, Cherry, and Postmate and describes it in his article “My Life as a TaskRabbit” in bloomberg’s .

In my research, I was unable to find too many businesses using TaskRabbit specifically, and continue to investigate other p2p service sites that may be on their way to Pittsburgh. On YELP, the LA satellite of TaskRabbit has been receiving pretty shoddy reviews. I personally don’t want Taskrabbit to come here. Like I stated earlier, it’s a great concept, and it puts a focus on sending requests out on the internet for professional assistance in a new way, like the good ol’ days of or It seems that the inherent flaws of underbidding by the ‘runners’ and no screening for the ‘posters’, who are also liable to falsify adverts and commit abuse, is crippling to a business managing a workforce.

If you can’t find anyone from craigslist or backpage, try Angie’s List. They are membership supported and local businesses create a free account to advertise their service. I know people swear by it and it seems more transparent about the cost of management and user reviews. And if you still can’t find someone for the task, ask around and engage in the barter system. Value is subjective and you might have some product or service that’s worth the effort to them. Long live the word of mouth system!

Retail’s Interactive Experience Future


It is Christmas day, we’ve all had our fill of coffee, cookies, and wrapping paper as we tore through the gifts from loved ones. My most valuable gift this year was a renewed subscription to the Harvard Business Review, which I would like to share some of the great knowledge I’ve garnered through my perusing of this publication.

We know tomorrow, the Next Day, most stores will flocked to much like Black Friday with all of the after holiday sales. For retailers, this is the biggest time of year, and though superficially great for the economy, how are the locally owned stores going to compete the rest of the year?

I have worked in wholesale, resale retail, and forward-thinking collaborative retail projects where buying can be seasonal or mostly inexplicable in layman’s terms. Most of the things we buy, we don’t need, and in an atmosphere such as is unknowingly to be in 2013’s revealing of our fiscal cliff for-certain catastrophe, most consumers are looking for deals.

This may not always be the case though, if your store is selling a style or mind-set, in the way that Apple does. In this HBR article, Ron Johnsonn, the former VP of Retail for Apple describes that their main selling point that gets folks in the store to buy is the experience.


Part of that experience is the mobile check-out abilities of tablets and smartphones that allow the customer to have a face-to-face relationship with the sales clerk. This means small stores need to take after the likes of Target, who’s mobile application and coupon center is by far the slickest I’ve seen, and integrate technology in their operations. Again, another great HBR Article describes just how and why this should occur.

Want to see deep in to the future? It’s not too far off in this developing virtual supermarket in Korea. The technological abilities to organize, superimpose, and assist decision making for customers with smart technology has just begun.


With all that being said, when tomorrow comes and you’re in a big box store searching for the super-holiday-end deals, check out the mobile devices, photography equipment, display ideas, and convenience appliances that would enhance your customer’s experience so that you save while you expand your sales plan.