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Express gains specialty retailer advantage with mobile payment app

Express is taking a lesson from the mobile payment success of Starbucks with an update to its application that tightly integrates the retailer’s loyalty program to let consumers pay through their mobile devices while shopping in-store.

The mobile payment feature has been incorporated into Express’s iPhone app and ties in with the overarching “Own the Moment” holiday campaign. In addition to its revamped app, the specialty retailer is also leveraging mobile email, SMS, RMM and social media as part of its holiday campaign.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer our Express Next credit card holders the opportunity to leave the plastic behind and purchase at store with the mobile card in our app,” said Liz Crystal, chief marketing officer at Express, Columbus, OH.

“The strategy behind it is to continue to offer more value in our app for our most engaged customers,” she said. “It is also one of the early stages of evolving our app to become more of a hub for our customers to both engage with and manage their relationship with Express.”

Pay with mobile?
Along the bottom of the Express app is a tab called “My card.” When consumers tap on the section, they can log-in to their Express Next accounts, which is the retailer’s loyalty program that includes a branded credit card.

Shoppers then show a digital version of their loyalty card to an Express employee who scans the card at the point of sale. The sale is then applied onto the loyalty card and is later paid off by consumers.

The mobile app feature also lets consumers manage their account or pay a bill.

Similar types of technology that incorporate a payment into a branded app have been successful for brands such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, however not a lot has been done around mobile payments for retailers. Express claims that it is the first specialty retailer to add mobile payments to its app.

“This is really the future of how shoppers will be engaging with some of their favorite stores,” said Maya Mikhailov, cofounder/executive vice president at GPShopper, New York.

“Why clutter up wallets with credit cards, when you can use your smartphone and personalized mobile app in the stores?” she said.

Express worked with GPShopper and Alliance Data to implement the loyalty program into the app.

Express is also rolling out a new tablet app that serves as a digital catalog. The Expstyle app is available for free download in Apple’s App Store and is also available in stores where employees are already armed with iPads.

End-to-end mobile
In addition to the app initiatives, Express has optimized email, social and display advertising campaigns for mobile this year.

For example, Express’s media buys run across Pandora and Hulu’s mobile properties.

The retailer is also running a New Years Eve-themed SMS campaign that is giving out a trip to New York on New Year’s Eve for one consumer. The trip includes airfare and hotel reservations, dinner and a shopping spree.

To enter the sweepstakes, consumers can text the keyword NYE to Express’ short code – 397737.

Additionally, Express is taking its SMS database to the next level this holiday season by incorporating rich media messaging into campaigns.

Express worked with Iris Mobile on a Black Friday campaign that ran from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3. Eight messages were sent out during the campaign.

Consumers that were already opted-in to Express’s SMS alerts were sent Black Friday-specific coupons. There was also a microsite at where consumers could sign up for deals.

Depending on the type of device a consumer had, the rich media message changed.

For example, iPhone users received deals that could be saved to Apple’s Passbook and links to save events to a device’s calendar. The version of the campaign sent to Android owners also included calendar and offer links but did not include the option to save content to Passbook.

“I think fundamentally when you think about comparing SMS versus rich media, one of the things that you have to know is that customers respond a lot better to things like images and video,” said Shalini Gupta, director of client services at Iris Mobile, Chicago.

“Certainly we’ve seen that across the board for our clients and certainly with Express where the results that we get are a lot higher using rich media,” she said. “You may see something that says, ‘you have a $10 off coupon,’ but if you see a product that you like in an image, you’re going to be much more compelled to go to the store.”

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