November 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart enters the mobile app realm with product recommendations

Wal-Mart already operates an m-commerce site and text messaging. Now it boasts an iPhone app, which focuses on electronics product recommendations. The app also includes a store locator and a social media tool to ask friends for help.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. already operates a successful m-commerce site (1.58 million unique monthly visitors in August, according to The Nielsen Co.) and conducts text messaging with customers. Now it has added the third leg of the mobile commerce stool by launching a mobile app.

The new app, designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch and available for free at Apple Inc.’s App Store, focuses on electronics product recommendations. It also includes a store locator and a social media tool to ask friends for help. Wal-Mart says this is only the first version of the app and that future versions will include additional functions.

Shoppers can search the app for a type of product, such as a laptop or a Blu-ray player. But with some products the app goes one better than just displaying recommended products. If searching for a TV, for example, a shopper takes a picture of the room in which the TV will reside. A box appears atop the picture; shoppers adjust the height and width of the box to mimic the size and shape of the TV. The recommendations engine then provides products that meet those dimensions.

In Ask My Friends, the app enables shoppers to post a product to their Facebook pages asking for opinions, or look for advice by e-mailing a product to a friend.

The app was built by Wal-Mart and partners.

Wal-Mart is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. (A PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name.)

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