If you have any interest in e-tailing, e-marketing, marketing technology or fashion, check this out. An article in last Friday's edition of Women's Wear Daily (WWD)—the must-read daily newspaper of the fashion industry—announced that Polo Ralph Lauren is about to embark on selling its products through cell phones (presumably in the U.S.).
"Taking its philosophy of “merchan-tainment” to a new level, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. is breaking into mobile commerce — m-commerce — incorporating technology that allows shoppers to buy Polo merchandise from their cell phones.
To realize this, the company is incorporating Quick Response Technology codes in its ads, mailers and store windows, which potential shoppers can scan and download on their camera phones. Once scanned, the site m.ralphlauren.com allows a mobile phone user to enter the world of Ralph Lauren — not just by offering the limited edition 2008 U.S. Open collection, classic polo and oxford shirts, chinos, and even the Ricky bag, but also with exclusive video content and a style guide."
A bit further on, the article goes on to say that "Polo is the first luxury retailer to tap into the QR technology, which is already popular in Asia and Europe."
As the piece is written, readers could be forgiven for assuming that Ralph Lauren is somehow out in front of other luxury brands when it comes to cell phone e-tailing and technology adoption. But truth be told, here in Japan, a number of luxury brands have been operating cell phone commerce sites for some time. Open any of Japan's top fashion magazines this month and you'll see that Gucci is using QR codes prominently in its advertising right now—and is using a customized code design, the latest trend amongst design sensitive brands (click on the image for an enlarged view).
If you're new to QR codes, they (and other emerging technologies), can be used by marketers in a number of ground-breaking ways. To see how they're being leveraged as powerful marketing tools in Japan, read thisJapan Marketing News article from early 2007.
A couple of months ago, the international papers were buzzing about Starbucks' woes in the U.S. Analysts have been worried that the American market has been saturated, and this has been reflected in the stock price, which is down almost 50% versus last year.
The situation is somewhat different here in Japan. The market is not quite saturated and the brand continues to grow. Nonetheless, a number of threats loom on the horizon and the brand isn't going to be enjoying a cakewalk going forward.
Besides the ongoing encroachment of competing chains like Doutor, Excelsior, Tully's and Seattle's Best, McDonald's has also joined the fray in earnest by launching its McCafe shops which feature a broad lineup of specialty coffee drinks. Additionally, the burger chain recently introduced a better quality brew called Premium Roast at its regular restaurants for just 100 yen per cup (about $1).
While outlet malls have been around in the US since the 1980's, they didn't make an appearance in Japan until 1993. Since then, more than 20 have opened nationwide, supported by enthusiastic Japanese consumers who enjoy bargain prices and the American-style open-space shopping and dining experiences these facilities offer.
The two largest developers of outlet malls in Japan are US-based Chelsea, which focuses on high-end brands in their Premium Outlets, and Mitsui Fudosan, whose Mitsui Outlet Parks comprise mostly mid-level brands with a few accessible premium outfits mixed in. At present, each company has six malls, but that's about to change next month.
On April 10, Mitsui is slated to open Mitsui Outlet Park Irima, a mega mall with 204 stores, restaurants and other offerings. Amongst the foreign brands to be represented there, some of the better-known include Banana Republic, Cole Haan, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Diesel, Eddie Bauer, Bruno Magli, and Furla (go here for a full list of shops).
If you're interested in visiting, access will be fairly easy from Tokyo. By train, you catch a special express from Ikebukuro that takes a little over 30 minutes to reach Irima-shi Station (using the Tobu Ikebukuro train line). From there, it's another 15 minutes by bus. Full access info here (in Japanese).
So, you're looking for a little something to spruce up your Japanese home or apartment at Christmas this year—are you willing to splurge a little?
How about indulging in a limited-edition box set of luxury tissues?
Known as the Sei Naru Cho Hana Celeb promotional two-pack, Oji Nepi a is releasing just 5,000 today through the online retailer Rakuten Ichiba. Featuring intricate holiday designs, the set contains "Silent White" and "Holy Black" and goes for a mere 3,000 yen ($26).
If you'd like a closer look at the packaging, visit the special Hana Celebwebsite.
But if you're thinking of buying, don't dawdle. Oji Nepia released a similarly priced special box set in February—and all 3,000 sold out on the same day.