March 27, 2013, 5:05 PM

Aeropostale adds a bar code scanner and outfit builder to its iPhone app

The chain retailer also is expanding use of iPad kiosks in stores.

Lead Photo

The chain retailer's iPhone app.

Mobile sales at teen apparel and accessories retailer Aeropostale Inc. have grown from 2% of total web sales when the merchant first launched its mobile commerceweb site in June 2010 to 13% today, the retailer reports. 36% of web traffic is mobile, it adds. This is why Aeropostale has just unveiled a new version of its iPhone app with expanded functionality. The merchant also is increasing the presence of mobile in-store by expanding its use of iPad kiosks.

Aeropostale has made considerable additions to its iPhone app, built with m-commerce technology provider Usablenet Inc. The app now features a bar code scanner capable of reading conventional one-dimensional bar codes and more advanced two-dimensional bar codes like QR codes. Scanning a product’s bar code via the app leads to more product information, customer reviews and inventory status, bringing e-commerce features directly into a store.

“The bar code scanner provides shoppers with the ability to receive deeper information on products in the store, which leads to higher engagement from shoppers,” says Carin van Vuuren, chief marketing officer at Usablenet. “Bar code scanning is a very successful aspect of the iPad kiosk app and this is part of the reason why it was included in the iPhone app. A bar code scanner has become table stakes in retail app design. It helps with engagement and it makes it possible to see what else you might be able to access even if it is not on the shelf in front of you.”

Aeropostale also has added an outfit style guide and builder to the iPhone app, which is integrated with the merchant’s e-commerce platform from GSI Commerce, now part of eBay Inc. This highly interactive feature displays three horizontal carousels, stacked one on top of the other. Shoppers can mix and match tops, bottoms and accessories in each of the carousels to create outfits that can be placed in a shopping cart in one touch.

“One of the big trends we’re seeing in app design is how much the principles behind games have had an impact,” van Vuuren says. “This is like in a casino with a one-armed bandit: A T-shirt in the top carousel, the middle carousel has shorts, and the bottom carousel you have a hoodie. There’s a playfulness of being able to mix and match these outfits, from predetermined styles Aeropostale feeds into the app, to what is trending online, to building your own outfits.”

There’s also a new video section in the app, in the area called A87 Style. Shoppers can swipe through a horizontal bar of videos, which are hosted on Aeropostale’s YouTube channel. The video player is built into the app.

“The video aspect of the app is not a critical stage of the user journey, so there is not a need to cache the videos inside the app,” van Vuuren says. “The most important thing, however, is that we want to reduce the amount of times users need to update the app to access fresh videos. By connecting the video feature to Aeropostale’s YouTube channel, Aeropostale is able to constantly present the most up-to-date video content to users.”

Usablenet declines to reveal the price tag for the iPhone app update. Aeropostale declined to be interviewed. However, Usablenet says that app projects similar to Aeropostale’s upgrade can cost at minimum between $50,000 and $75,000.

Usablenet is the No. 3 vendor of mobile commerce technology to the Internet Retailer top 1,000 e-retailers, according to the 2013 Leading Vendors to the Top 1,000 E-retailers guide.

Meanwhile, Aeropostale, No. 104 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, is expanding its use of iPad kiosks loaded with a custom app, also built with Usablenet. The merchant added kiosks to one of its stores in January and now will add them to 50 stores by the end of April, with further expansion in the works, Usablenet says. Aeropostale has nearly 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“Aeropostale is leaning more toward the teenager who wants to be more fashion-conscious, so the iPads have style viewers, the outfit builder, and style recommendations for seasonal styles,” van Vuuren says. “And some other interesting tricks to ensure there is longer engagement in the store by the teenagers. For example, in the iPad app there is music integration where teenagers can vote on music playing in the store. You can vote on which tracks you like the most and if you hang around your choices will rise to the top and get played. Very social-oriented functions that have the cool factor that’s increasing the amount of time teenagers are spending in the store. And when they hang out, they buy stuff.”

Usablenet declines to reveal the cost of the iPad app. An iPad sells for $499. Usablenet says measuring return on investment with an iPad kiosk and app depends on the objective of installing the kiosks.

“Aeropostale wants to help customers establish a deeper engagement with the brand, spending more time in the store, browsing and engaging with the content on the kiosk and in the store,” van Vuuren says. “The ROI on that investment depends on if the retailer is getting time spent in store up and if it’s seeing customers getting a deeper engagement. Aeropostale rolling out iPad kiosks from one store to 50 points to ROI.”

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