Online, Offline, All the Time

Bet the Company


Melanie Alshab, 36, president of, an incubator for products that connect online and offline shopping. The company, launched in 1999 and based in Rosemont, Illinois, is a subsidiary of Simon Property Group, a real-estate developer.


The Bet

“Human beings exist in place and in space, not in a building or in the ether. We believe that the next evolution of commerce will create a consumer experience that seamlessly links the online and offline worlds.

“In Atlanta, for example, we’re testing click-and-mortar combinations on both teens and young professionals. In the case of teens, we’re experimenting with a handheld device, called FastFrog, that allows them to read about fashion trends, scan products, and create a wish list of items that they can upload to a Web page. With teens, there’s often a two-week lag between looking and buying, so we’ll know what’s hot before anyone else does, and our retailers will be able to change assortments accordingly.

“For time-starved urban professionals, we’re testing a service called YourSherpa. It allows people to scan products at several different stores but to ‘check out’ at a single register. A ‘sherpa’ then collects and delivers those products — no more lines, no more bags.”

Hedging the Bet

“In both the physical and the online worlds, people shop at multiple retailers. A Wal-Mart storefront can’t meet all of a consumer’s needs or tastes, and neither can the Wal-Mart Web site. The information that we collect can help retailers form meaningful, and sometimes unexpected, partnerships with one another.”

The Odds

“If we can use scanning technology and the Web to take care of basic cash-register functions, then sales associates will be free to provide a level of service that’s unique to traditional physical stores. That will make consumers and retailers happy.”

Contact Melanie Alshab by email (, or visit on the Web (


Location courtesy of Mandarin Oriental San Francisco.