September 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Ralph Lauren’s Rugby tosses a second ball into the mobile commerce scrum

The young adults apparel retailer has launched an iPhone app that enables shoppers to customize their own rugby shirts, polo shirts, sweaters and other products. This app follows Rugby’s m-commerce site, and both enable shopping and purchasing.

Right now retail mobile apps are battling in a rugby-like scrum, fighting for the attention and subsequent downloads that move them high on the list of popular apps in an app store. Ralph Lauren’s Rugby brand today entered the fray with a mobile app targeting young adult fashion consumers who want to personalize what they buy and how they buy it.

The iPhone and iPod Touch mobile app, available for free at Apple’s App Store, enables customers to custom design their own rugby shirts, polo shirts, sweaters and other products. Customers can add patches with letters or numbers, then upload a picture of themselves through the app to create a virtual model of what they would look like in the apparel. And they can share that image through an automatic connection with Facebook or through an E-mail a Friend link. Customers then can purchase the customized products through the app.

The new iPhone app expands Ralph Lauren’s already considerable presence in m-commerce. The retailer operates two transactional mobile sites, m.RalphLauren.com and Rugby.com/mobile, and both Polo and Rugby use text messaging in their marketing programs.

Ralph Lauren Media LLC, which operates Polo Ralph Lauren and Rugby, is No. 88 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

A mobile app is a tiny program downloaded from an online app store that runs on a smartphone. It links via the mobile web to a retailer’s web servers to obtain content for display within the app. A mobile app can offer a richer, faster customer experience than a mobile commerce web site because many of the features and design elements are stored on the smartphone and thus do not have to be regularly downloaded from servers, and because an app can integrate with smartphone features such as an address book or GPS navigation to greatly enhance functionality.

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