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Uniqlo snubs branded app, partners with mobile shopping platform Spring

Japanese apparel retailer Uniqlo is attempting to gain a larger market share in the United States by selling its products through mobile shopping application Spring, marking the brand’s first time merchandising via a third-party platform.

The popular Asia-based marketer is joining Spring’s roster of featured brands a year and a half after the mobile marketplace’s debut, hoping to showcase its aspirational yet accessible pieces in a way that appeals to Spring’s young users. Since Uniqlo does not currently offer a mobile app for U.S. consumers, the retailer is banking on a safer strategy of displaying its products on a popular shopping destination as it steadily builds up its Western fan base.

“Uniqlo’s decision to tap Spring for mobile commerce services instead of using its own branded mobile app provides several benefits,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Leveraging Spring’s mobile app avoids the cost of building a standalone app and makes its brand more visible by exposing it to consumers that may not be current customers of Uniqlo.

“Another advantage is that Uniqlo doesn’t have to compete with all the other companies vying for precious app space on consumers’ smartphones.”

Multi-brand juggling
The Spring app caters to users who prefer to shop all of their favorite brands in one singular location on mobile, rather than download multiple standalone retail apps onto their smartphones.

The mobile shopping platform debuted with the support of brands such as Marc Jacobs and Warby Parker, which are geared toward a slightly more affluent set of consumers.

However, Spring is hoping to diversify its portfolio by adding Uniqlo to its roster of partners. The Japanese retailer is still expanding its bricks-and-mortar presence in United States shopping centers, suggesting it may not yet have the dedicated fan base that investing in a branded app requires.

Instead of pouring heavy funds into an app development project, Uniqlo will pay Spring a small commission of each sale. The brand will ensure that its products reach more eyes, positing that Spring will be a useful customer acquisition tool.

This collaboration is the first time that Uniqlo is marketing its pieces via a third-party platform. It is also a win for Spring, as Uniqlo is one of the most global brands it has acquired, in addition to millennial staple retailers American Apparel and Urban Outfitters.

While Spring does have plenty of brands to juggle within its one-stop mobile shopping destination, it is likely best leveraged as a springboard for apparel marketers attempting to incite interest among new, younger customers.

Springing up sales
Uniqlo is also in a position to drive more sales on mobile, especially since it will maintain the ability to control its own shopping experience within Spring. Spring will host the brand’s entire product catalog, ensuring that fans will be able to find any piece for which they may be searching.

The Uniqlo acquisition is set to bring additional press to Spring as well, although the shopping app has already been gaining buzz in the mobile commerce sector for the last year.

In reflection of the growing excitement around mobile shopping and apps, a bevy of fashion labels and investors have embraced Spring, an app providing a highly curated experience targeting younger shoppers as well as many brand-friendly tools (see story).

Additionally, Snapchat is combining mobile messaging and commerce with last year’s investment in the Spring app, capitalizing on the growing popularity of conversational commerce (see story).

“As more brands team up with Spring, it will make it even more appealing for other retailers to join the crowd,” Mr. Naumann said. “With increased awareness, Spring will continue to expand its user base and make it a more attractive way for retailers to reach new audiences.”