Back-to-school shoppers this Labor Day weekend are playing the role of guinea pigs for traditional retailers trying to get cool with the Web's social networking. Some are experimenting with chat rooms, virtual worlds, and interactive video, reports JupiterResearch.
Sears, for example, recently launched a virtual showroom at Zwinky.com that reportedly drew about 750,000 visitors in its first couple of weeks.
JCPenney launched DorkDodge, a game where collegebound women get to experience the geeky guys they'll meet on campus. The game plays off a marketing campaign the retail chain created that showed teens how "to get that look," Jupiter notes. At the end of the game is a link to a JCPenney page on Facebook.
But rather than actually selling something, retailers can mostly hope to build brand awareness, says Jupiter's David Schatsky. So far, he says, "social media has shown little direct impact on actual online retail sales."