July 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble adds an iPhone app to its m-commerce operation

The bookseller’s m-commerce site has grown rapidly during the last 12 months. As a result, Barnes & Noble has signed on for the next step in mobile retailing—mobile apps that provide iPhone and iPod Touch users access to exclusive web content.

Barnes & Noble Inc. just joined the small but growing club of retailers with mobile apps. The merchant, which already has an m-commerce web site, has unveiled in Apple Inc.’s App Store the B&N; Bookstore app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. While there are some comparison shopping and similar mobile apps available for the iPhone and other brands of smartphones, the new B&N; Bookstore app is one of only 15 or so operated by retailers.

“We designed the B&N; Bookstore app based on the tremendous growth we’ve seen over the past 12 months in our mobile traffic and customer adoption,” says William Lynch, president of Barnes & Noble.com, No. 41 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “Now, the app provides iPhone and iPod Touch users access to exclusive content and customer reviews, as well as information about the more than 50,000 events in our stores.”

A mobile app is a tiny program downloaded from an online app store that runs on a smartphone. It links via the mobile web to a retailer’s web servers to obtain content for display within the app. A mobile app, however, can offer a richer, faster customer experience than a mobile commerce web site because many of the features and design elements are stored on the smartphone and thus do not have to be regularly downloaded from servers, and because an app can integrate with smartphone features such as an address book or GPS navigation to greatly enhance functionality.

In addition to typical e-commerce and m-commerce features and functions, the B&N; Bookstore app enables customers to search the online bookstore using pictures. Barnes & Noble has partnered with Evryx Technologies Inc. and Spotlight Mobile Inc. to create functionality that lets users snap a photo of the front cover of a book and within seconds get product details, editorial reviews and customer ratings.

The bookseller simplified the mobile purchasing process by syncing the mobile app with the e-commerce site back-end. Users who already have an account with BN.com enter their e-mail address and password to sign in and access their account information and address book. Shoppers who do not already have a BN.com account can create one on the e-commerce site and then sync the app with the account.

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