June 3, 2013, 12:29 PM

Beyond the Rack meets a flood of Apple device users with two mobile apps

In May, the flash-sale e-retailer raked in $4.3 million from iOS users.

In May, Beyond the Rack racked up $4.3 million in sales via Apple Inc. iOS mobile devices and $400,000 in sales via Android devices, the members-only flash-sale e-retailer reports. Revenue per visit was $1.30 for iOS devices—$0.98 for iPhones and $1.92 for iPads—and $0.88 for Android devices. Guess which mobile operating system it chose to build apps for first?

Beyond the Rack has just unveiled an iPhone app and an iPad app, created with app developer Plastic Mobile, to complement its existing mobile commerce web site, built by m-commerce technology provider Mobify. The e-retailer enabled push notifications in both apps through push notification and Apple Passbook specialist Urban Airship.

On weekdays in May, mobile accounted for 37% of traffic and 33% of revenue. On weekends in May, mobile accounted for 41% of traffic and 41% of revenue. The iPad accounted for 40% of Apple device revenue in May and the iPhone 60%; however, revenue per visit from iPads is almost double that of iPhones, Beyond the Rack reports.

The merchant is designing all its mobile offerings, which soon will also include a tablet-optimized web site, with a similar look and feel. For the Apple apps, the merchant has included a new design technique recently adopted by Facebook and LinkedIn in their apps. App users can slide pages from left to right and back. A page does not disappear, rather, a bit of the side remains visible so users can easily swipe back to that page.

App users can subscribe to a variety of push notification messages: daily, weekly, men, women and special offers. App users also can save credit card and shipping address information within the app to make future purchases faster.

“There are some bells and whistles in the pipeline for Version 2,” says Richard Cohene, director of marketing at Beyond the Rack. “One is a game-changer that nobody has ever done in mobile commerce. It will take a while to build. We’re very far from deployment.” He declined to provide details.

Beyond the Rack decided to use an app developer rather than build the apps in-house for a simple reason.

“We had no choice,” Cohene says. “Beyond the Rack is four years old and we are still dealing with a very busy technology queue with many mission-critical projects that have to happen. The app is something you can build in-house, but you have to hire a team of front-end and back-end developers who are experts in the space to make a world-class mobile app. We didn’t have the resources or the time to build that out in-house. Perhaps several years from now it will be in the cards, but for right now we needed an app that was world-class and that we could get out in 2013 with confidence. So that is why we decided to go with Plastic Mobile.”

The merchant decided to enable push notifications through Urban Airship because the mobile technology vendor is a partner with Beyond the Rack’s e-mail services provider, ExactTarget.

“ExactTarget stores a lot of our customer relationship management and analytics data, so marrying those two communication vehicles, e-mail and push, to live within one database where we could better understand key performance indicators really seemed like a good way to go,” Cohene says.

Looking ahead, Cohene says desktop sales soon will be eclipsed by mobile sales at Beyond the Rack.

“From June 2012 to June 2013, we’ve grown from doing 12% mobile to 40% mobile—we’ve practically quadrupled sales through mobile devices,” he says. “In the next 12 months, with the introduction of the mobile apps and the creation of the tablet web experience, I would be surprised if our mobile sales did not eclipse the 50% mark, pushing desktop into the minority. Mobile sales may represent 55-60% of our business by June 2014.”

Cohene declined to reveal what it cost to build the iPhone and iPad apps, but says he has seen quotes from app developers as low as $30,000 and as high as $250,000.

“If you want a world-class Facebook-quality app you will spend $250,000,” he says. “If you want a 3-star or 4-star app that will do plenty and have a great user interface you will pay $150,000. A quick and dirty app will cost less than $100,000.”

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