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House of Fraser unzips mobile sales via scan-to-shop catalogs

British department store chain House of Fraser is ramping up the mobile shopping experience by updating its iOS applications to include scan-to-explore features such as 3D product reviews, videos, music, shoppable lookbooks and recipes.

The brand has teamed up with Poq’s app commerce platform to bring augmented reality into the fray, a feature that has enabled other retailers to offer more interactive mobile elements to shoppers to liven up their experiences. The 3D product reviews will likely help boost sales for the chain even higher, as customers who are on the fence about a particular product may be swayed to purchase after reading others’ favorable remarks.

“One of the most exciting elements of the ‘scan to explore’ feature is that it amplifies the experience at various touchpoints: it augments catalogs, but can also make shop windows shoppable,” said Michael Langguth, co-founder of Poq, London. “Customers can scan catalog pages to watch instructional videos or check out 3D previews of products on their phone, and then buy the items on their phone.

“Last week, the feature was also used in conjunction with a scannable easel in House of Fraser’s Oxford Street branch,” he said. “Passersby could use the app to scan the easel, and shop directly from the window.

“This creates a fully immersive way to experience retail.”

Digitizing content
House of Fraser is now enabling fans to experience its interactive catalogs by selecting the “scan to explore” tool within its mobile application and scanning the brochures with their smartphones to unlock exclusive content. For instance, if a user is intrigued by a section detailing the best practices for wearing lip liner, she may scan the page with her device to open up a how-to video via YouTube.

If the shopper likes the products used in the video, she can click the “shop the look” button to bring up an in-app shopping experience. The customer will be able to sort items based on rating or price, and may check out directly on a smartphone.

Shoppable videos are becoming must-have features for a plethora of clothing and accessories marketers. Individuals are consuming increasing amounts of mobile video and clips while on-the-go, turning to fashion bloggers or other experts for tips and trends on the newest looks.

Therefore, it makes sense for retailers to capitalize on this movement by ensuring that their featured products in videos come with an embedded link that allows fans to instantly purchase them.

“The majority of House of Fraser’s online traffic is via mobile devices, as its tech-savvy customers rely heavily on their smartphones for almost everything,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “House of Fraser’s new augmented reality feature should appeal to its increasingly sophisticated customers’ shopping habits.

“Augmenting apps with innovative features that bridge physical and digital channels enhances customer engagement and provides a richer shopping experience.”

Print catalogs and magazines have also been getting the mobile treatment as of late, proving that brands are catching on to consumers’ desires to bridge the physical and digital worlds.

The September issue of People StyleWatch recently underwent a mobile makeover thanks to augmented reality app Blippar, enabling readers to scan merchandise to instantly shop the items and receive additional fashion tips and music playlists on their smartphones (see story).

House of Fraser’s augmented reality integration may even help the brand reach previously untapped consumers and demographics. Consumers who stumble upon its catalogs and become interested in a particular spread or item may be prompted to quickly download the app and shop the featured products.

“Enhancing apps with interactive, scannable features will help retailers get more consumers to download and use their apps,” Mr. Naumann said. “With a plethora of apps available, consumers are reaching app fatigue.

“Anything retailers can do to make their apps more compelling will increase the chance that consumers will take the effort to download the app and add it to their precious screen space.”

The augmented reality tools are now available within the brand’s iPhone and iPad apps.

Interactive elements
Nowadays, retailers’ apps must go beyond the stagnant recreation of a mobile site experience by offering additional exclusive content and interactive elements to pique customers’ interest. House of Fraser is also using 3D product reviews in its latest app update, further helping consumers on their path to purchase.

This feature could be especially useful for aiding in-store shoppers. An increasing amount of retailers are rolling out in-app tools that enable customers to scan a bar code or price tag with their personal device to instantly read reviews.

House of Fraser is no stranger to bolstering in-store experiences with mobile features.

Last year, it tested beacon-enabled mannequins to boost product search, therefore mobilizing the in-store experience (see story).

“Though in-app shopping is becoming increasingly mainstream, the majority of retail app users are still a retailers’ most loyal customers,” Poq’s Mr. Langguth said. “Incorporating interactive elements is a great way of keeping app users engaged, and rewarding them with experiences that are exclusive to the app.

“Other important app features that drive sales include in-app loyalty and a live store stock checker, about which you can read more in our app commerce report.”

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