The idea will get a test drive later this week when 50 cabs are outfitted with technology allowing passengers to purchase luxury beauty products by swiping their smart phones over special tags inside the cab.
Passengers will get a free cab ride for being part of the five-day Fashion Week experiment. But they won't have an option most riders do: They can't turn off the in-taxi television screens.
The "mobile taxi shops"—hatched by Glamour magazine for Fashion Week, which starts Thursday—were inspired by the virtual stores the supermarket chain Tesco launched in the Seoul subway system. Riders can use their smartphone cameras to scan the codes of items advertised on station walls, then pay and have the purchases delivered.
Bill Wackermann, executive vice president and publishing director of Glamour, said he wanted to replicate the Tesco project in New York, where the subways aren't WiFi-enabled.
"It sort of changed the whole perception of where you can shop," said Mr. Wackermann. He convinced L'Oréal SA, Glamour's biggest advertiser, to become a partner in the taxi project.
Most riders won't notice. Only select cabs in neighborhoods associated with Fashion Week—such as Lincoln Center and the Meatpacking District—will carry the technology. Screens will show programming from Glamour on beauty trends, with makeup artists from L'Oréal brands Lancome and Yves Saint Laurent doing demonstrations.
SnapTags from technology company SpyderLynk will be hung inside the taxis. Passengers who want to shop for products on the screen must download an app and hold the phone over the tags to make a purchase.
Glamour worked with VeriFone, the company that runs the television and credit-card payment systems in New York City yellow cabs, to contract with taxis for the experiment. The taxis will pick up passengers only at the special locations, and Glamour will subsidize 100% of the costs for the taxis during the program.
It remains to be seen how riders will react to making purchases in cabs. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission effort to introduce credit-card readers and television screens into yellow cabs has received mixed reviews.
While the credit-card machines generally have been well-received, the TVs have been a source of irritation for many riders.
A spokesman for the TLC which wasn't involved in the Glamour deal, declined to comment.
The presence of TVs has become such a hot-button issue that, as part of a plan to introduce 18,000 new livery cabs in New York later this year, the city agreed to let the owners of the new cabs decide whether to install the screens.
On Sunday, passengers had mixed reactions. "I would never use that," said Kate Lamb, 25 years old, of the West Village. "The last thing I want to do in a cab is buy something else."
But Greenwich Village resident Adam Harris was excited by the concept. The 28-year-old said, "If I see I could use that, and I'm just sitting there, then I think it's a good idea," he said.
Glamour has long relied on print ads for most of its revenue but is one of a growing number of magazines that has pushed into electronic and mobile commerce. Magazine publishers are having to get more creative or risk losing business.
"You've got to be comfortable with trying new things," Mr. Wackermann said. "Do we know exactly what will happen? No. But you can't be afraid to fail."
Source: Wall Street Journal