November 30, 2011, 3:19 PM

Staples heeds customers and redesigns its iPhone app

The retailer has added mobile check-ins and bar code scanning.

Lead Photo

The merchant's app now includes a bar code scanner designed to ease searching and ordering.

Staples Inc. places great emphasis on the voice of the customer and does extensive research and testing, especially in the realm of mobile commerce. Its newly redesigned iPhone app is the result of asking customers what would make shopping Staples easier.

“This is a complete revamp of our app; we focused on the biggest pain points of shopping,” says Brian Tilzer, vice president of e-commerce and business development for “We believe this app will become the ultimate shopping companion for our small business customers.”

The office supplies merchant has added mobile check-ins to the new version of the iPhone app (an Android update will follow in the weeks ahead). The check-ins are similar to those conducted on popular mobile social apps such as shopkick and foursquare. A Staples customer opens the app on her iPhone when near or in a Staples store and the app, through the iPhone’s GPS technology, senses her location. The app then displays a special offer that can be used in that store.

“Check-ins are a place where we need to experiment because we want to actively get customers to use this app as much as possible because it adds value to the shopping experience in stores,” Tilzer says.

Staples also added a bar code scanner to the app. Now, rather than type in product names to add items to a cart, or write down product names on a piece of paper to later find items on the PC site, a customer can scan the bar code on a product in her office and the item automatically displays onscreen. The customer presses a scan button to activate the feature; she points her smartphone camera at the code and the app reads it and retrieves the appropriate information.

The new app also enables customers to redeem Staples rewards if they forget their paper rewards checks. A couple of touches lead to a rewards section that shows a cashier the customer’s rewards account and current check.

Staples is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300. Tilzer says mobile sales were brisk on Black Friday. He would not divulge exact figures but says Staples exceeded the numbers in this week’s IBM Coremetrics Black Friday Benchmark Study. The study says mobile traffic to 500 retail web sites hit 14.3% and sales as a percentage of total e-commerce sales reached 9.8%.

“We want to be a real leader in mobile commerce,” Tilzer says. “We are investing like crazy. We are tripling the size of our e-commerce team and mobile is the tip of the spear of initiatives we are pursuing to continue to innovate and be a real leader in the space.”

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