July 17, 2013, 3:26 PM

Amid 178% m-commerce growth, One Kings Lane unveils an iOS app

The “universal” app for both iPhones and iPads can serve 90% of all mobile traffic.

Lead Photo

The e-retailer's universal app for iOS, as it displays on an iPad. Touching the "hamburger" icon (top center) shifts the screen to the right, making room for the left-hand column to enter the design.

Flash-sale housewares and jewelry e-retailer One Kings Lane has shared with Internet Retailer data that gives fellow merchants an idea of what’s happening at this moment among leaders in mobile commerce: 36% of total traffic at One Kings Lane is mobile. 60% of mobile traffic comes from tablets and 40% from smartphones.

One brand stands out, as 90% of mobile traffic stems from devices running Apple Inc.’s iOS. The average ticket for an iPhone shopper is $163, the average ticket for an Android smartphone shopper is $110, and the average ticket for an iPad shopper is $185. Overall, the e-retailer is predicting 178% growth in mobile sales in 2013.

One Kings Lane is fertile ground for what is called a “universal” app—one app that serves both smartphones and tablets, and understandably it’s focused first on Apple devices.The retailer has just introduced its first universal iOS app, which works on iPhones, iPads, iPad minis and iPod Touch devices, displaying different views to fit the different screens. The universal app replaces the e-retailer’s previous iPhone app.

The new app’s design and navigation are centered on images.

“We put photography front and center everywhere in the app,” says Jean Sini, chief technology officer at One Kings Lane. “How do we bridge the gap over not being able to actually sit on a sofa, how do we make the experience tactile? Through the best imagery. When you zoom into an image, for example, it’s so clear that you can really see the texture on fabric. We pushed hard so people get a very immersive and tactile interaction with the furniture.”

On the iPad, the app also makes use of a newer tool in mobile apps, known among developers as the “hamburger.” The hamburger is a small icon with three parallel horizontal lines; the top and bottom lines being the bun, and the middle line being the burger. Touching the icon shifts the current screen over to the right so that it takes up the right two-thirds of the screen (part of the page is shifted off screen). A vertical navigation bar appears in the left third of the screen, for One Kings Lane containing more image-centered links to more sales (see picture).

The universal app also allows customers to enable push notifications. One Kings Lanes sends out reminders of sales customers indicate they do not want to miss, when there is only one item left of a product a customer has indicated interest in, and when items left in a shopping cart are about to expire.

“It’s a much gentler way of communicating with our customers than e-mail,” Sini says. “It’s specific to actions they have already taken. You want to know when your cart’s about to expire. There are very high subscription rates to push notifications.” Sini declined to reveal the exact subscription rate.

One Kings Lane built the universal iOS app entirely in-house. In fact, it beefed up its mobile team specifically for this project, and for future mobile commerce development.

“We spent the last six months building the app from the ground up,” Sini says. “We hired a bunch of iOS developers and talented designers. It was a rewarding experience working with such very talented people. They are constantly looking for new ideas. These guys are very inspired.”

One Kings Lane declined to reveal how many mobile developers it has added in 2013 or an iOS developer’s salary. The average salary for an iOS developer is around $100,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other experts say.

Overall, One Kings Lane is fast approaching a time when mobile devices are at least as important to its business as computers, Sini says.

“We’re not far from the point in time where half of our revenue comes from mobile,” he says. “To say mobile is not a second-class citizen for us is such an understatement. We work mobile-first, we don’t even have to think about it anymore it’s so second nature. We think about a new feature and immediately the question is, is this something that can work on mobile.”

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