Consumer Reports hits the malls

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As part of an ongoing to strategy to test different platforms and reach targeted audiences, Consumers Reports has put together a retail program that launched this week in 16 malls in the Boston area.

Three of the malls feature Holiday Smart Labs kiosks measuring 15-feet by 20-feet that house six computer terminals offering free access to ConsumerReports.org. There are also several LCD monitors displaying buying-related content from Consumer Reports as well as brand ambassadors handing out passes good for 24 hours of free access to ConsumerReports.org. In the remaining malls, Consumer Reports is sponsoring rejuvenation stations where consumers can pick up free access passes.

“The shopping process is changing,” said Vince Scordo, consumer branding program manager at Consumer Reports. Younger consumers – those under the age of 40 – aren't going online and doing research before going into stores to make a purchase, according to the company's research.

 “They're going to stores, listening to sales people or peers and making decisions on the fly,” Scordo said.

It is because of this trend, coupled with the current economic situation, that Consumer Reports felt a “need to get into the malls and become part of the shopping experience,” said Jamie Barnow, chief marketing officer at Consumer Reports. The goal of the program is to help consumers get the best value for their money.

Consumer Reports is a non-profit and product-testing organization that regularly publishes its results on its Web site and in its magazines.

Another goal of the holiday mall program is to nurture the relationship with any leads acquired during the promotion and hopefully encourage them to become subscribers to the Web site. The kiosks are open November 25 through December 7.

To this end, the brand ambassadors will be encouraging consumers to explore a new site functionality that enables subscribers who have narrowed in on a product of interest to click through to a shopping comparison engine and find the best price on that item. Consumer Reports hopes to eventually expand this function to allow users to find stores locally and to make it available to non-subscribers.

The brand ambassadors also will be offering consumers a free issue of its Shop Smart magazine.

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