MySpace, meet the mall (and a lot of backend IT customization)

Will social media influence your shopping habits?  If IconNicholson, a digital design firm that couples technology and retail shopping, is correct sites like Facebook and MySpace will influence what you buy (see gallery).

Will social media influence your shopping habits? 

If IconNicholson, a digital design firm that couples technology and retail shopping, is correct sites like Facebook and MySpace will influence what you buy (see gallery). After all, your friends will be able to vote on what you're trying on. And if you're lucky your pals may even buy it for you and then IM you through the mirror to tell you about it.

At the National Retail Federation annual conference in New York, IconNicholson's store of the future was garnering a lot of interest. Is the concept far fetched? Not as much as you'd think. Joseph Olewitz, senior vice president of client relations for IconNicholson, says an unnamed major retailer is going to roll out the concept in the next three to six months.

The rub: These interactive storefronts require a heavy amount of customization to connect to a retailers' merchandising, inventory and supply chain systems running in the background.

"We can plug into any system, but there will heavy customization to ensure retailers are getting ROI," says Olewitz. ROI on these systems are expected to be measured via increased sales, better customer service and shrink control, which will also be helped by the RFID tags on clothing sold through the interactive displays.

Here's how this newfangled shopping experience, which is designed to reach to engage young shoppers, would work.

Shopper sees RFID enabled outfit, then holds it up to a scanner/mirror for more information. She then pings her friends who can vote on what she's trying on. These pals can also IM her through the mirror.

To make a purchase, she can do it through a handheld. An RFID tag in the outfit records the transaction and records inventory levels, price and other vital statistics.

The biggest hurdle to all of this may be the backend systems involved. Retailers are still struggling with auto replenishment, logistics, demand modeling and supply chain management. A fancy front end may not change that equation.

One thing is certain though: If a retailer does pull off social media shopping and couples it with IT systems it'll have quite the competitive advantage.

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