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Ace Hardware debuts first app for loyalty, product research

Ace Hardware is making its first foray into applications with an iPhone app that stores a digital version of loyalty cards and pushes in-store and online commerce.

The hardware chain has steadily been building up its mobile strategy since 2010, and the new app bundles a few of the brand’s ongoing initiatives together. Ace has also added in-store pick-up to its Web and mobile platforms to make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for.

“Our foundation was with the mobile Web site that we launched in 2010,” said Mark Lowe, ecommerce marketing and digital department manager at Ace Hardware, Oak Brook, IL.

“This is the next evolution with the mobile app, and then we’re continuing to evaluate what’s next for Ace in the mobile space, whether that be a tablet-optimized Web site, tablet apps or other areas where we can build applications or functionality in the mobile space that will help consumers interact with our brand,” he said.

App happy
The hardware chain has built a bar code scanner into its app so that consumers can view additional product information and read reviews.

Ace’s loyalty program — Ace Rewards — is also integrated into the app. Members can accumulate rewards, view a digital version of a loyalty card and look up their purchase history.

Ace’s app includes how-to videos and step-by-step directions to help construct home projects.

The brand is also leveraging push notifications to promote offers and mobile content.

Moreover, consumers can research, read reviews and shop straight from Ace’s iPhone app.

In addition to increasing on-device commerce, Ace’s app also aims to drive in-store traffic with a store locator feature. Consumers can also view store-specific information, recent ads and upcoming events through the app.

Ace plans to roll out an Android version of the app in April.

The hardware retailer has also rolled out in-store pickup to its Web site and mobile platforms.

A new “check availability” button on product pages uses a ZIP code to let consumers find in-stock inventory.

Consumers can then buy the item online and pick it up in-store or just buy it in-store.

In-stock pickup on Ace’s mobile site

Building a mobile strategy
Ace has been in the mobile space since 2010 when the brand launched its mobile site. The site was re-launched in 2012 with mobile commerce.

The brand has also experimented with mobile advertising and SMS.

For example, a pilot mobile coupon program at several Ace locations in northern California last year resulted in a 49 percent redemption rate. Shoppers received the coupons by opting in to the brand’s SMS program (see story).

Additionally, the brand has put a focus on location-based mobile advertising campaigns in the past few years.

A Weather Channel executive at the 2012 Mobile Marketing Association’s MMA Forum referenced a geo-located Ace mobile advertising campaign that resulted in a 61 percent purchase intent (see story).

The addition of both in-store pickup and the new mobile app are only part of a bigger mobile strategy that Ace is carving out around convenience.

“They’re really two separate programs, but they work together,” Mr. Lowe said.

“Everything we do from a digital standpoint is to extend our brand promise of being helpful and convenient, and the app does that in the manner that the consumer can interact with Ace however they want,” he said.

“The in-store pickup feature that we have on and all of our mobile properties allows users to take a look at the inventory and what’s available at their local Ace and either go in and pick it up that same day or order it online, reserve it and pick it up later.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York