April 22, 2010, 12:22 PM

More retailers add apps made for the iPad’s touchscreen and rich graphics

Yoox.com, a high-end Italy-based apparel and home décor retailer, is among the latest merchants to go live with an iPad shopping app. Apparel retailers seem to be the most eager to launch e-commerce apps for Apple Inc.’s latest m-commerce gizmo. Gap and Lacoste, the retailer with shirts featuring the popular alligator logo, also have launched them. But one analyst wonders if consumers will sign on to iPad apps, and if they are worth the time and effort to develop.

Yoox.com, a high-end Italy-based apparel and home décor retailer, is among the latest merchants to go live with an iPad shopping app. Apparel retailers seem to be the most eager to launch e-commerce apps for Apple Inc.’s latest m-commerce gizmo. Gap and Lacoste, the retailer with shirts featuring the popular alligator logo, also have launched them. But one analyst wonders if consumers will sign on to iPad apps, and if they are worth the time and effort to develop.

The Yoox.com iPad app follows the retailer’s shopping app for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch. Yoox developed its iPad app in-house and made it available in six languages. Shoppers can have their purchases delivered to 67 countries

The app mimics the look and feel of a print magazine. Shoppers can flip though and view high-resolution product images. A tap of an item brings up more images and the checkout page was created especially for the iPad, which features a 9.7-inch screen, measured diagonally, much larger than the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display.

Vendors and retailers alike are jumping on board the iPad app bandwagon. In addition to Gap and Lacoste, m-commerce provider Usablenet this month announced it is now supporting the iPad for mobile commerce.

However, Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., wonders if the money and work that goes into creating iPad apps is worth it.

“I’m not sure that over time separate iPad apps make sense,” Mulpuru says. “First, how large of an audience is this group? Is it necessary to create a separate experience for them?”

Additionally, Mulpuru says according to the feedback she’s received so far, iPad users are comfortable navigating normal web sites on the device, which has a screen roughly as big as that of most netbooks. If that’s the case, she says, why create an iPad-specific commerce app when users are comfortable with the full-scale experience?

“You usually create an app to adjust for the fact that the mobile form factor keeps you from using your site in a friendly way,” Mulpuru says. “The iPad is theoretically intended to reduce the form factor friction, enabling you to have a richer experience on this device.”

For eBay, the reason to create an iPad app is that shoppers can do things with the app that they simply can’t do in a browser, says Steve Yankovich, vice president of mobile for eBay.

“EBay for iPad is more like window shopping than web browsing,” he says. “The iPad is an entertainment device ideally suited for the shopping experience and the app takes advantage of its touch screen technology and high resolution imagery to deliver a visually rich shopping experience that works much differently than the experience you have on a web browser.”

For example, with the eBay app shoppers can quickly scan through hundreds of product listings by swiping a finger and can pinpoint the exact price range and product they’re looking for with a tap. Such features are only possible with an app built specifically for the iPad, he says.

The fact that iPads are flying off shelves could help bolster the case for creating apps devised specifically for the new Apple device. Apple sold 300,000 iPads on April 3, the first day the tablet computer went on sale, and more than 500,000 of the devices in the first week. In fact, demand for the iPad has been so high that Apple had to push back its international launch for the device.

And it seems consumers are taking to iPad apps, at least so far. IPad users downloaded over one million apps from Apple’s App Store on the day of the launch.

“It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world—it’s going to be a game changer,” Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, said in the announcement. “IPad users, on average, downloaded more than three apps within hours of unpacking their new iPad.”

Online marketplace eBay was one of the first out of the gate with an iPad app and it says the investment is justified.

Other recent iPad apps include shopping comparison site Pricegrabber.com’s app, which enables shoppers to search for and buy products on the iPad, a shopping app from Gilt Groupe and an app from Amazon.com for its Kindle e-book reader.

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