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Express transforms app into one-stop shopping companion for loyalty, payments

Apparel retailer Express is transforming its mobile application into a shopping companion that merges social media, loyalty, payments and geotargeting into a singular location as it gears up to maximize sales during the upcoming holiday season.

The chain is also integrating the app with its loyalty program, Express Next, to enable shoppers to easily enroll, access accumulated points and gain available rewards while on-the-go. Consumers who hold a credit card with the brand may engage in contactless payments in-store by scanning their smartphones, suggesting that more mass-market retailers will follow this strategy.

“If you visit any retail store any time of the year, you’ll see people using mobile devices during the shopping journey,” said Elizabeth Crystal, chief marketing officer at Express. “During holiday, this is only amplified.

“With access to all of their Express Next details, style inspiration from social integration and the full catalog of products at their fingertips, our app is a terrific shopping companion whether you’re shopping at home on one of your devices, shopping online on-the-go or using it during a visit to an Express store.”

Gearing up for holidays
Express’ enhancements come at an opportune time for the apparel marketer, as other brands race to perfect their mobile offerings ahead of the busy holiday shopping season, which kicks off in full force on Black Friday.

“During the holiday shopping season, consumers are time-starved,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Simplifying the shopping experience with valuable features on mobile apps will be embraced by shoppers and help drive incremental sales.

“According to comScore, 77 percent of U.S. adults now own a smartphone and they are increasingly using mobile devices for shopping, researching products, getting feedback via social media and paying for purchases. Express understands that mobile apps are a critical component in delivering a personalized, seamless shopping experience and it is responding to customers’ new expectations.”

Express fans that download the application for their iOS or Android devices will have access to geotargeted messages, promotions and videos, which may prompt them to visit the brand’s location instead of a competitor’s when shopping at a mall.

The marketer has previously stressed the importance of using geo-location to send relevant messages to passersby, a move that is imperative for the increasingly tight retail sector.

Additional new app features include a social media section, which showcases engaging behind-the-scenes videos, blog content, access to the Express YouTube and Instagram accounts and the ability to share product pages via Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email.

The styling features may also be useful to customers wavering on buying a specific product or purchasing a gift for a friend. Users are now able to scroll through fashion tips, view new looks as well as in-store inventory and customize preferences for the products displayed on each page.

Consumers seeking to read reviews or gain more information about a particular item may use their smartphones to scan bar codes on the clothing tags and open up the subsequent content in the app. This strategy may continue gaining traction with a slew of other retailers, especially if the idea of personal pricing takes off in the future.

More commerce options
Express Next credit card holders may now view their account balances on their smartphones, as well as scan the devices at contactless terminals in-store to complete a transaction. This feature will likely come in handy during peak shopping times such as Black Friday, when bricks-and-mortar locations are inundated with hordes of consumers and long lines.

Instead of digging through their wallets, guests can simply tap and pay at the cashier register. Cardholders will also be able to make payments and see their transaction history within the app, while new customers can apply for an Express credit card via mobile.

Additionally, the brand has integrated its loyalty program, Express Next, into the relaunched app, allowing customers to more easily collect rewards points and track their status while shopping on-the-go.

Loyalty app integrations are paramount for any major retailer, as consumers search for brands that offer discounts or rewards for making continued purchases.

The revamped mobile app comes on the heels of a mobile-centric summer from Express.

In July, Express tapped photo-sharing application Snapchat to demonstrate a day in the life of a corporate intern and drive job applications among millennials, a move that could become more popular among other retailers (see story).

The chain also merged digital and traditional advertising methods by building excitement for a new commercial featuring supermodel Karlie Kloss with a rollout on Instagram 24 hours before it hit televisions nationwide (see story).

“We’re most excited to share the full integration of our Express Next loyalty program,” Express’ Ms. Crystal said. “Members can now access all of their account details including point levels and available rewards right in the app.

“As our app is tailored towards connecting with our most engaged customers, this feature was at the heart of our upgrade along with the improved shopping experience and social media integration.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York