October 18, 2010, 4:47 PM

B&H Photo launches its first mobile app

The electronics retailer aims to recreate the web experience through its iPhone app.

Lead Photo

The app's navigational tools serve both professionals and hobbyists.

B&H Foto & Electronics Corp., which operates BHPhotoVideo.com, today announced the launch of its first iPhone app. The company’s 300,000-item inventory is available for purchase through the app, which also offers detailed product information, photos, and ratings and reviews. The company says its goal with the app is to replicate as closely as possible the experience customers have when shopping B&H through other channels.

“We want the customer to have a similar experience as they would in-store, on the phone or at our e-store,” says Shia Meisels, who works in information system research and development at B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio, No. 139 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. He says the company was hesitant at first about whether it could replicate the experience via mobile. It chose the iPhone app as its first mobile initiative because it felt the platform provided more flexibility in design and navigation than would a mobile-optimized web site.

The company also felt that an app could better feature lots of information, which meant B&H could put into the app all the product detail customers can find at the web store. “To trim that information down was not going to make the customer experience the one we hoped to get,” he says.

Meisels says B&H plans to have an Android app ready soon.

The B&H app also needed navigational tools designed to serve two distinct customer sets. The company serves the casual electronics consumer and the photo and video professional, and those customers shop differently. Professionals will know what they want down to the model number, Meisels says, while a consumer looking for a new digital camera, for example, may use the app to explore the product category. Consequently, the app features a quick search box for customers who know what they want and wish to complete the transaction quickly, and also provides navigation via product category that allows for in-depth research on all available products.

B&H enlisted Endeca Technologies Inc., the provider of search and navigation technology for BHPhotoVideo.com, to help the retailer develop the app and integrate back-end product information so that the web site and mobile app operate off the same database. “They were able to piggyback their knowledge of our data,” Meisels says. He calls the four-month project a collaborative effort, and says about half the time was spent building out the existing web infrastructure and the other half on developing and testing the app.

The app launched through Apple’s iTunes App Store last week. Meisels says the app was downloaded several thousand times in the first 48 hours and that early customer feedback is mostly positive. B&H is taking all comments and product suggestions into account for further iPhone app updates and in preparation for the Android app launch, Meisels says. “We will listen carefully to what consumers want to see. We will be as committed to the mobile channel as we are to all our other channels,” he says.

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