Musical instruments e-retailer Guitar Center launched an app in December and it is already boosting its sales.

What Guitar Center Inc.’s app looks like today is ideally what the website will look like in the future, says Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Guitar Center.

The musical instruments e-retailer launched an iOS and Android app in December after discussing the project for two years and working on it for nine months, Wisot says. The app is faster, easier to navigate and less cluttered compared with, Wisot says.

“Customers are able to get to what they’re looking for faster,” Wisot says. “It’s very product-focused so the areas that customers are most interested in and engage with, they can get to quickly.”

Guitar Center’s user experience team studied the behavior of its online shoppers to see which areas of the site they click on most, and reviewed customers’ checkout habits to prioritize elements in the app and streamline navigation, Wisot says. The retailer also conducted in-person interviews with shoppers to get their feedback on design. For example, shoppers said they want to quickly access the Used gear section, so Guitar Center made that screen one tap away.

Wisot hopes Guitar Center’s desktop and mobile sites will have the app’s ease and level of usability in the future. And for good reason: In the few months since the app launched, it has increased revenue for Guitar Center, Wisot says.


“We’re seeing a strong amount of sales coming through the app, and it has not cannibalized the other areas,” says Wisot, who notes sales via its mobile site and desktop have not declined. In fact, mobile app sales have a higher average order value than the mobile site and desktop site, Wisot says. The app AOV is in the hundreds of dollars, he says without revealing specifics.

“The conversion rate for our app is not only better than the mobile site but it’s the same as the desktop,” Wisot says. He is extremely pleased because he says he didn’t expect such a result for at least six months and after tweaking the app.

We’re focusing more on mobile first when it comes to everything we do digitally.

The app has more than 50,000 installs and about 1,000 consumers per day download it, Wisot says. But downloads are not the goal. Guitar Center would much rather have a smaller, engaged audience than a mass amount of consumers downloading but then not using the app, he says.


To keep consumers who have downloaded the app engaged, Guitar Center sends push notifications and in-app notifications. For example, last month Guitar Center sent app users a coupon that they had 48 hours to redeem in a store or in the app. The code was a one-time use code that was different for each consumer so the retailer could tie an app user to an in-store purchase. The alert drove a “very large” number of shoppers to the store to make a purchase and an “incredible amount” of shoppers made a purchase with in-app, Wisot says without revealing specifics.

The retailer also is experimenting with tailoring smartphone alerts to each user based on what he has previously searched for or bought. For example, if a customer bought a starter pack, that shopper is likely a beginner and the retailer would suggest products for music learners, he says.

The app is also key to its omnichannel strategy, Wisot says. For example, when a consumer searches in the app, she can see if the product is in a nearby store. There is also a bar code scanner in the app, so a shopper in a store can scan an item’s bar code to read product reviews or save it to review later. This feature is especially handy to shoppers, Wisot says. Previously, if a shopper came into the store to look for products he needed for a gig, he would have to tap each product into search to save it to a wish list before he could share it with his bandmates. This could take two hours compared with minutes using the bar code scanner, Wisot says.

Store associates also are trained to let shoppers know about the app. For example, if a shopper is looking at a product, the employee will show the shopper reviews of the product or a product video in the app and let the shopper know he can download the app himself for that content.


Customers had requested an app, and as Guitar Center witnessed more than 50% of its website visits stemming from mobile devices, it felt it was the right time to launch an app, Wisot says. “We’re focusing more on mobile first when it comes to everything we do digitally,” he says.

Guitar Center developed the app in-house with about 15 employees from several teams, such as brand marketing, creative services and information technology, over nine months, Wisot says. Guitar Center also hired two employees dedicated to the app.

Guitar Center plans to digitally market the app via search ads and ads on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play. The retailer also will advertise the app with direct mail, in its TV commercials, on its website, in customer emails and with a box insert in products it ships. In stores, the retailer is promoting the app on posters, on its TV monitors and with an audio ad that plays over speakers.

The retailer wants to add several more features to the app, such as a tool that allows consumers to reschedule a lesson with a Guitar Center instructor and a quick checkout method via Apple Pay.


Guitar Center owns Musician’s Friend Inc., No. 60 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.

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