November 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

B&H Photo squeezes 300,000 SKUs into its mobile app

The retailer says its goal is to replicate on smartphones as closely as possible the experience customers have when shopping on its e-commerce site or in its store.

There are 300,000 items for sale by multichannel photography retailer B&H Foto & Electronics Corp., and every one of them can be purchased through B&H's new iPhone app launched last month.

B&H Foto & Electronics Corp., which operates and a single superstore in New York City, says its goal with the app is to replicate as closely as possible the experience customers have when shopping B&H through and its superstore in New York City.

"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.

B&H 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, he says. 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 or from store associates, he adds.

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

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, while also providing 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, to help develop the app and integrate back-end product information so that the web site and mobile app operate off the same database.

Meisels says the app was downloaded several thousand times in the first 48 hours after it was launched through Apple's iTunes App Store.

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