Store associates at Nine West put mobile technology to work this holiday season. The women’s shoe and handbag retailer rolled out an in-store iPad app in November that allows employees to show customers items from its e-commerce site and look-books, access product information and place online orders from stores, according to The Jones Group Inc., which owns Nine West and more than 35 other brands.
Together, the app and an iPad mobile checkout system Nine West has been testing and gradually adding to stores since September helped the retailer set sales records in more than 70 of its stores over Thanksgiving weekend, says Scott Bowman, group president of global retail and international development for The Jones Group, declining to share specific sales numbers. Since the app’s launch, online traffic has doubled and the app now generates between 20% and 75% of daily transactions in stores equipped with the technology, Bowman says.
The app was also designed to help store managers. It has eliminated the need for printed internal documents in Nine West stores entirely, Bowman says. And because the app connects to store and e-commerce systems from all Nine West properties—including inventory and product information—updating information for all stores at once is much simpler than before, Bowman adds. For example, an executive can take a picture of a product she sees in a store, upload it to a look-book and the next day—after the app is updated overnight—all Nine West apps will display the new photo. In the first quarter of 2013, Nine West will launch phase two of the app,which will become the primary method by which store managers receive and interact with operations information, he says.
The Jones Group selected mobile web developer EachScape Inc. to build the app, which the company completed in six weeks. “The ability to go from dream to concept to scope document to test app to implemented app in basically 90 days is something we could have never done internally,” Bowman says.
That speed is crucial more than ever, says Michael Facemire, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The requirement used to be for apps to come out every 12 to 18 months, but now mobile apps need to come out every four to six months,” he says. EachScape makes this possible with a drag-and-drop setup that allows a designer to build an app using the Internet-hosted software without help from I.T., he says. That also means The Jones Group can make future changes to the app on its own, says Ludo Collin, CEO of EachScape, though the retailer still plans to enlist EachScape in building a few new features. The Jones Group has been impressed enough to look into developing in-store apps for some of its other brands too, Bowman says without naming which ones. Other Jones Group brands includeJones New York, Anne Klein, Kurt Geiger, Boutique 9, Easy Spirit and Carvela.
Another strength of EachScape is its ability to serve two different audiences: it’s a customer-oriented Internet app plus an employee-oriented app designed to provide store information and operations data, Facemire says. “Having a tool that allows you to access both ends of that space is key going forward,” he says.Because the app is not only connected to all inventory and product information but also has a clean shopping interface, both customers and store associates can use the same app to get what they need.He expects more retailers to adopt in-store tablet apps in the near future, which will enhance their overall image and customer satisfaction, he says.
For other retailers, Facemire suggests that a vendor—which can provide a sophisticated app in a short time period—will help them catch up and respond to a quickly changing mobile environment. “As soon as your competitor has an app, it’s almost as if you need to have an app tomorrow,” he says.
Bowman says the Nine West app cost less than six figures to build and deploy, declining to share the exact price. While mobile app prices vary widely in general, Facemire offers a crude industry estimate of $300,000 to $500,000 on average for an in-store app integratedwith other back-end business tools such as product databases or content management systems.
Jones Retail Corp. is No. 155 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.