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Express spotlights in-app merchandising with fully native product pages

The chain launched a major app makeover several months ago and made sure to get the latest capabilities – including to find availability for different sizes and colors both in-store and online – in time for holiday shoppers. The news comes as Express reports strong third-quarter results, with sales growing more than analysts had forecast and the app putting in a strong performance.

“In September we upgraded our mobile app and the results have been great,” said David Kornberg, CEO of Express, during a conference call with analysts last week to discuss the company’s third quarter results.

“Pages linked and time spent have increased potentially along with monthly revenues,” he said. “Given the rapid rate at which our customers are adopting mobile commerce, we will continue to optimize our mobile app for appeal and usability.”

Native experiences
A number of retailers have released so-called hybrid apps that combine native elements with browser-based elements. This strategy enabled retailers to get to market with their apps more quickly and economically.

However, native experiences typically provide a much stronger user experience that more fully takes advantage of a phone’s capabilities. As app shopping has grown – and it has become clear that a retailer’s app shoppers are among its most valuable – retailers have been building more native content.

The Express update is important because it focuses on product pages, which was likely a big project for the retailer.

Express is promising that the native product pages making shopping easier and faster in a number of ways.

For example, shoppers can now see full-screen product images by tapping on photos on product pages. As more consumers both browse and complete purchases from an app, being able to deliver impactful imagery is important.

“Today, retailers use native for product pages when they want to take advantage of the newest interactions, to see it will drive sales,” said Scott Michaels, vice president of client engagement at Arctouch.   “For example, 3D Touch and using ‘Peeks’ and ‘Pops’ on product page images.

“Express is certainly not first to market with this plan,” he said.

“The next big area retailers will convert to native is the checkout cart experience itself, which is primarily Web views within applications today.”

Local inventory
Express has also integrated online and local inventory on the product pages. This addresses how shoppers are using mobile to not only for online shopping but also to support their in-store visits. Being able to easily discover if a coveted item is available at a nearby store is likely to drive foot traffic and incremental sales for Express.

Finally, app users can now easily share products directly from the product pages.

The app update follows a major overhaul of the app that made its debut in September and transformed the retailer’s app into a shopping companion merging social media, loyalty, payments and geotargeting (see story).

These developments come as Express is attempting to update its brand positioning and put a bigger emphasis on product, both in terms of mix, with new products being introduced more frequently, and in merchandising, both in-store and online.

“The easy path, is one many retailers took in the first versions of their apps, to reuse as much from the Web and mobile Web as they could in order to shorten the time to market with the app,” Mr. Michaels said.

“Then, with follow on revisions they start to see that they are underperforming in comparison to the other applications in their category,” he said.

“Is it simply due to the technology underneath? Of course not, but there is a strong correlation between an app appearing to stay modern, which increases engagement with the app, with the final goal of more purchases or conversions.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York