Talking Stores

I heard on the radio that stores will soon begin talking to their customers. No, not store clerks, but the products themselves. A customer walks into a store and the merchandise suggests itself or accessories to go with it. That’s just eerie. It reminds me of the scene in Minority Report in which the Tom Cruise character goes into some sort of clothing store (sorry for the vagueness–if it’s not a bookstore or a hardware store it doesn’t register on my consciousness) and the clothing or mannequins or something greet him by name and  suggest some things he might like to buy. If this happened to me I would probably run screaming into the night.

But, really, it’s not too different from what Amazon.com does. Have you ever noticed that if you’re searching for something on their site (or better yet), buy something, that the page pops up suggestions about similar merchandise that you might want to buy. Now, I don’t find that creepy but rather helpful. There’s something about a smooth voice emanating from an end cap trying to get me to buy something that raises my hackles.

And, actually, Amazon.com didn’t invent the idea. I think it came from a bookstore in Seattle (more precision retail knowledge, I know). The clerks observed where the customers browsed and even if they didn’t buy anything, the booksellers would try to engage the customer in conversation about the subjects they seemed interested in. Like Amazon.com, but with people. If the customer brought something to the register, they could suggest similar items. Smart? You bet! Creepy? Not at all–until the clothes in a store start talking to me.

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One response to “Talking Stores

  1. Speaking of creepy–I was listening to a story on the radio yesterday about cars that 'talk' to each other, and was considering writing about that…apparently they are planning to test them in Michigan so they can see the effect on traffic safety, etc. (BTW: I wouldn't mind talking stores so much if they could help weed through the gazillion choices you have to make. Every item I buy seems to come in an infinite number of varieties: Cheerios, OJ, bread, milk….)

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