Yahoo Turns Times Square into Winter Wonderland

Black Friday is taking on a new meaning this year as Yahoo today sets out to shake up the holiday shopping season with the world’s largest interactive snow globe smack dab in the middle of Times Square.

“We wanted to get the word out about our Comparison Shopping and award-winning Product Search and show people how searching is really fun,” Rob Solomon, vice president and general manager of Yahoo Shopping told the E-Commerce Times.

“It’s about bringing the Yahoo spirit and the holiday shopping spirit to life on the world’s largest stage to introduce new functionalities to people who haven’t experienced them yet,” Solomon explained.

Call it a man-made, e-commerce Winter Wonderland. It starts with a life-sized replica of a classic holiday office paperweight. The Yahoo Snow Globe is 16 feet in diameter and uses a machine to circulate potato starch in lieu of actual snow.

Inside the snow globe shoppers will find a “Comparison Shopping Santa” and some Yahoo elves to help them navigate the portal on custom-designed, state-of-the-art WiFi Internet kiosks for instant online shopping gratification. If that’s not enough, Yahoo is offering free digital photos with none other than Santa Clause himself.

Stunt Power

This is the first time Yahoo has ever invaded a city with anything grander than a digital billboard, but it’s not the first time the portal player has pulled a marketing stunt.

Yahoo teamed up with E Ink, a developer of electronic ink technology, in 1999 to light up the streets of major cities during the holiday season. Yahoo incorporated E Ink’s technology onto sandwich board signs that people wore as they walked around in shopping malls and stores to promote the Internet portal.

The signs, which measured 34-inches wide by 22-inches tall and incorporated two lines of electronic ink with pre-printed graphics, could be updated instantly.

Bigtime Brainstorming

Signs are one thing, but how did Yahoo come up with the idea to build the world’s largest snow globe and place it in the middle of Times Square, the epicenter of holiday shopping?

Solomon said someone was literally fidgeting with a snow globe during a brainstorm session when someone else asked, “How cool would it be to bring a snow globe to life and let people interact inside of it?” Then they set about executing the vision.

“When Yahoo asked Absolute Hollywood to create the world’s largest interactive snow globe, we were thrilled to take on the challenge of breaking our own size record and create this revolutionary snow globe for the event,” James Lanier, director of Absolute Hollywood, said.

“We wanted our snow globe to symbolically reflect the scale of the shopping experience on Yahoo, as well as provide this visual type of wonderment that has delighted children and adults for generations,” Lanier said.

Solomon declined to disclose the promotional costs involved, but he is confident that the spectacle will result in payoff by bringing greater awareness to Yahoo’s comparison shopping and product search functions through the media buzz he expects it to generate.

Functional Hype

Beyond the hype, Yahoo does have some user-friendly functionality to showcase. Its Product Search engine recently expanded the ability to narrow by attribute, which makes it simple to search and sort through millions of “soft goods” products.

Type “shoes” into Yahoo Shopping, for example, and users can quickly and easily narrow tens of thousands of results by selecting various attributes, such as gender, age, shoe style, brand, store, price and special deals.

Whether from the front page of Yahoo Shopping or from within the Holiday Gift Guides, consumers can also take advantage of many comparison shopping tools and services available on Yahoo Shopping, including side-by-side product comparisons, buyer’s guides, price alerts, merchant and product ratings and reviews, free shipping and bargains pages and more.

The Comparison Shopping and Product Search will live on after this weekend, but Solomon is yet unsure what will be the fate of the giant snow globe, which is only planned to be on site through tomorrow.

“We’ll evaluate the success of the promotion,” Solomon said. “We’ll figure out where it makes sense to unleash it again. But we haven’t thought beyond Saturday yet.”

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