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Uniqlo banks on mobile image recognition to drive in-store traffic

Uniqlo is expanding its mobile footprint with a new application that leverages image recognition to increase foot traffic as the retailer opens 10 new stores in the United States.

The apparel retailer is rolling out the new USA iPhone app to primarily drive in-store traffic, since the company does not offer mobile commerce. In addition to image recognition, the app also includes store locator features.

“As Uniqlo continues to expand within the U.S., it is important to be accessible to our customers,” said Hiroshi Nagai, chief marketing officer and fast retailing senior vice president at Uniqlo USA, New York.

“The app gives us the opportunity to speak directly with the consumer so they will be more familiar with the brand and its U.S. presence,” he said.

Mobile engagement
The retailer is rolling out ten new stores in California, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. In total, Uniqlo will operate 17 bricks-and-mortar stores in the United States and 1,200 stores worldwide by the end of the year.

To support the new stores, the app includes an image recognition component that recognizes logos to unlock additional information about the brand.

Consumers that scan an image of the logo are directed to an in-app landing page where they can learn more about the design behind the clothes via a video that is two and a half minutes long.

Uniqlo’s new USA app also lets consumers view stores on either a map or view them as a list. Consumers can view store images, directions and store information via the app.

There is also a weekly favorites section where consumers can view some of the retailer’s most popular items.

The app is available for free download from Apple’s App Store, and an Android version of the app is planned for the future.

Uniqlo also has a series of other apps that are more focused on branding than driving sales.

For example, one app is a social alarm clock that uses the weather, time of day and day of the week to send out alarm music. Another app is a calendar that matches music and images to show off Japan’s four seasons.

Uniqlo will also debut a new Web site later this fall. Although there is not a mobile component to the new site, consumers will be able to view how-to videos, read product information and get an inside look at the LifeWear, the company’s tagline for its collection.

Store information within the app

Past efforts
Uniqlo has delved into mobile in the past, too.

Earlier this year, the retailer loaded its print advertisements with calls-to-action that encouraged consumers to download a mobile app. The app lets consumers loop together short videos to create an animated film (see story).

Additionally, the brand has turned to mobile advertising in the past to promote a sweepstakes and giveaway (see story).

“In 2012, Uniqlo launched its U.S. ecommerce site, giving consumers throughout the U.S. an opportunity to experience the brand and buy our clothes online,” Mr. Nagai said.

“Digital is an important part of our brand, and by creating the new app and mobile features, customers are able to engage with us and find out more information wherever and whenever they want to,” he said.

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