December 8, 2010, 1:23 PM

REI promotes iPhone app in new national TV commercials

The retailer is going far beyond most merchants in getting the mobile word out.

Lead Photo

The outdoors apparel and accessories retailer is encouraging TV viewers to download its app.

For retailers, a hurdle to getting shoppers with smartphones to use a retail mobile app is getting those shoppers to discover the app in the first place. When an app store like Apple Inc.’s offers more than 300,000 apps, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

When it comes to retailers getting the mobile word out, Recreational Equipment Inc. is standing out in a big way. Where many merchants relegate app promotion to a small box or even just a text link at the bottom of their e-commerce site home pages, REI is promoting its iPhone app in a new national television advertising campaign. REI is running commercials, one with two hikers in the outdoors eating peanut butter sandwiches and another with two hikers stuck in a cave in the rain, that are designed, according to the merchant, to convey the REI brand and additionally promote its mobile app for anytime/anywhere shopping.

“The ads are meant to raise awareness and promote REI, and we added mobile flair to them,” says Brad Brown, vice president of e-commerce and direct sales. “We looked at our media plan and considered what would be the best way to shout this out. TV is a great way to raise awareness of what you’re doing in the mobile space—the number of impressions you get on TV is striking.”

And it’s not just TV. The outdoors apparel and accessories retailer is shouting from the mountaintops.

“We are promoting mobile in TV and in other promotional collateral, in every piece that we’ve been sending out after we felt confident of our app launch date,” Brown says. “You’ll see it in magazine ads, for example. We will have a lot of impressions out there that raise the awareness of this app. And we’re providing store personnel with educational material.”

So why is REI giving an iPhone app such a high profile? Because mobile commerce is on the rise, Brown says.

“It’s pretty clear to us that more people will be using mobile phones to shop,” he says. “We see that in our stores today—customers in our aisles pull out a phone and look for things. If we can get customers aware of the app and they’re in an REI store, they will be better serviced, they’ll have a better experience at REI, and we hope that will lead to a better engagement with our customers. We think it’s pretty darn important to play in that.”

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