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Retale is latest to take a stab at mobilizing retail circulars

A number of other organizations such as the Associated Press have already tried to put out a centralized mobile circular app for retailers, but Retale is confident that it has created the winning solution. Bonial International Group has already launched similar apps in Germany, France, Russia, Spain and Brazil, and it has  accumulated more than 500 European retailers already.

“We saw the opportunity that a lot of retail advertising budgets are shifting from print to online and to mobile and our idea was to basically give an easy instrument especially for a retailer to replicate this experience,” said Christian Gaiser, Germany-based CEO/founder of Bonial International Group and inventor of Retale.

“One of the key benefits is that it’s easy to use, so it’s a low entry barrier from a retailer perspective, and that’s the reason why we’ve been able to scale up to over 500 clients in Europe so far, a lot of the biggest ones, because basically the only thing you have to do is send us the material that you would already be sending to your printing facilities,” he said.

“The second thing behind the strategy is really also about intuitiveness and easiness for the consumer. They have been used to the experience. And we basically mirror this experience on this platform, and they keep using it.”

Retale comes to the U.S.
Five years ago, Bonial International Group rolled out its mobile circular app for Germany, and it has been profitable for two and a half years. The app has reached 5.6 million active users.

Bonial International Group has now launched for the United States with 17 retailers on board, including Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, Toys “R” Us and Family Dollar. Retale expects to have around 25 retailers by Black Friday.

Retale lets consumers search the app for a specific retailer’s circular or for a specific product throughout different retailers. It also incorporates geolocation to tell consumers the nearest location of a retailer along with the store’s hours.

Consumers can also filter the circulars by categories such as department stores or office supplies.

The homepage of the app showcases the different circulars in bookshelf form.

Once consumers select a circular, they can flip through it by swiping across the screen, imitating the physical act of flipping through a circular. Users can clip specific offers and create shopping lists.

Consumers also have the ability to click on a product to be directed to the product page on the retailer’s site, but the main focus of the app is to drive in-store traffic.

Retailers can embed videos within their circulars to further engage consumers.

Retale also integrated social media to let consumers share a weekly ad on Facebook and Twitter. They can also favorite a retailer to receive push notifications when a new circular comes out, or they can favorite a product to see when that specific item is available in new stores.

As of now, all  the retailers have to do is send Retale their print circular, with any additional information and features they would like to include, and give Retale permission to use the content.

In the future, Retale will mimic its European counterparts’ business model and charge the retailers by consumer engagement.

Retale is available for free download in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Mobile circular
The premise behind Retale is to allow each retailer to tell their story and engage consumers via mobile.

“From my perspective, the transition to consuming media on platforms other than the tradition paper is undeniable, and if you look at the statistics, the move to mobile is faster than anybody would have thought about when we started,” said Pat Dermody, U.S. President of Retale. “I looked at it as the opportunity to really be on the forefront of this shift and try to drive mobile content as people easily migrate from one platform to another.”

A number of different companies have already created mobile circulars on their own.

For example, CVS/Pharmacy offers myWeekly Ad through a desktop and mobile circular to help consumers find deals (see story).

Retale, however, creates one centralized location for consumers to discover mobile circulars.

Others before Bonial International Group have attempted to do just that.

The Associate Press launched iCircular in the summer of 2012 to help publishers monetize their digital audiences with mobile circulars (see story).

Later that year, the AP sold iCircular to Wanderful Media, which now offers the mobile circular to newspapers across the country.

Retale differs from iCircular in that it is an independent app that is not housed within a distribution partner such as a newspaper. It provides an easy, accessible centralized location for consumers to engage with retailers.

“I think it has a lot of potential for in-store use,” said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research, Miami, FL.  “Plus a lot of people check email on their phones, so if retailers are letting their customers know about new circulars via email, it makes sense to offer a mobile-optimized circular so that the full mobile experience is consistent.”

However, Ms. Baird is not yet totally convinced that Retale will be an immediate success.

“It all depends,” she said. “There are three hard things about taking on this space.

“One, getting enough retailers on it to make it attractive to consumers. Two, getting enough consumers to use it to make it attractive to retailers, and three, figuring out how to make digital circulars fit well into consumers’ purchase habits to the point that the circulars can replace traditional print.”

According to Steve Cole, chief marketing officer of Gladson, Lisle, IL, offering consumers an upfront value to use the app will be a challenge.

“A big issue is shoppers already have relationships with the retailers where they shop, so the challenge for this company is to establish a brand and value proposition that will convince shoppers to use this app rather than the retailer’s,” he said.

However, Mr. Cole definitely sees the benefit of mobilizing retailers’ circulars and housing them in one location.

“The bottom line is shopper convenience,” he said. “Shoppers want to access the product information they’re looking for quickly and easily. Consolidating this information into once place could make it more convenient for shoppers to find deals on the products they’re shopping for.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York