Retail Commuting

We are truly a nation of commuters! I, personally, commute via public transportation daily, 90 minutes each way, 5 days a week. The idea of being able to easily and efficiently get my shopping done in route is very appealing. And while I know that this option has been available to me on my mobile for some time, retailers are now using much more interactive, omnichannel tactics to make the process more engaging.

A great example of retail commuting is the IKEA-converted Monorail train in Tokyo created to celebrate the grand opening of one of the retailer’s new locations. Customers were selected, by raffle, to come aboard the IKEA decorated train to party with IKEA staff and gain exposure to the IKEA design aesthetic. The decorated cars were only temporary, but did a good job of introducing the retailer to their new neighbors.


Another example comes out of Zurich where Starbucks created an entire train. The outside was decorated with the Starbuck’s logo and colors and inside they created a soothing palate inspired by different shades of coffee. Riders could visit the on-board café and have their drinks delivered to their numbered tables in the lounge.


Across the UK, hundreds of railway stations have started to open ‘click and collect’ stores including big fashion retailers ASOS, New Look and TM Lewin. Commuters can make purchases online and pick them up on their way through the station. These retailers are really effective in molding to commuters’ busy lives.

In the U.S., New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is hopping on the bandwagon. Earlier this year they rolled out large digital kiosks that display transit system maps. And, Amazon had the brilliant idea of using these kiosks as digital pop-up stores – just in time for the Holidays! Commuters can swipe through the screens to see gift selections and obtain more info about the product. Then, they scan a QR code or send a text message to receive an link, from which they can purchase once they come out of the Subway.


Finally, Peapod has tested virtual grocery shopping at commuter rail stations across Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. They are leveraging technology to create billboardson the train platforms to mimic grocery store aisles. Commuters can use iPhones, iPads, or Android phones to scan a QR code allowing them to download the Peapod Mobile app and then scan bar codes of various products to add to their virtual cart. Once they get on the train, they can continue to add to their cart, pay and schedule their delivery.


Recent publications have cited that in the U.S. people board public transportation 35 million times each weekday with an average commuting time of 25 minutes, each way. That means there’s an opportunity for retailers to garner millions of marketing impressions each day. So, keep your eyes peeled the next time you board public transportation; chances are you’ll see a retailer using an interesting tactic to get you to spend money while you ride!

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