July 26, 2012, 3:46 PM

Cataloger plants mobile seeds to reduce expenditures

Appleseed’s launches three m-commerce sites in time for Postal Service offer.

Lead Photo

LinenSource.com is one of Appleseed's three brands to go mobile in time for a U.S. Postal Service promotion involving QR codes and the mobile web.

Usually retailers build mobile commerce sites to make money. Appleseed’s, a division of Orchard Brands, created mobile sites for its three brands to save money. Parent company Orchard Brands built m-commerce sites for others of its brands, as well, all aimed at taking advantage of a U.S. Postal Service promotion. For $299 a month per m-commerce site, Orchard Brands has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in postage costs.

Here’s how it works. The U.S. Postal Service is running a summer promotion that gives a 3% postage discount to retailers that include two-dimensional bar codes such as QR codes in their catalogs or other mailers that link to the mobile web. QR codes when scanned by a smartphone with a free 2-D bar code reader app link a smartphone user to mobile web-based content such as a video or a mobile-optimized product page.

Appleseed’s wanted to take advantage of the discount. It mails more than 60 million catalogs a year for its AppleSeeds, TogShop and LinenSource brands. So it examined the offerings of some m-commerce technology providers and decided on mShopper. It chose the vendor because it concluded mShopper could build m-commerce sites quickly and inexpensively, the merchant’s two key considerations. The vendor launched the sites in late June and early July.

Appleseed’s printed QR codes on the back cover of every catalog; the codes link to the m-commerce site home page of the respective brand. The merchant would not give an exact savings figure but said it was hundreds of thousands of dollars across all 14 brands of its parent company Orchard Brands. MShopper charges Appleseed’s $299 a month to build and maintain an individual mobile site.

“We watched our mobile traffic increase year over year to today where it’s as high as 4%,” says Tracy Dickson, director of e-commerce at Appleseed’s. “The Postal Service discount was the kick in the butt to get ourselves moving in the direction of mobile commerce.”

Now Dickson is keeping an eye on analytics to see how the mobile commerce sites perform financially. She says the three Appleseed’s brands target the 55 and older demographic, not one known for extensive use of smartphones. But even older consumers are switching to smartphones—mobile behavior may change, Dickson says.

“There is a strong relationship between what you see in catalogs and what you see on e-commerce sites—mobile is an extension of that relationship,” Dickson says.

Orchard Brands is No. 99 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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