January 16, 2014, 5:09 PM

Usablenet helps retailers repurpose online data to jazz up mobile apps

The mobile platform vendor is offering a new service that creates feeds from any type of data a retailer has as well as data that’s publically available online. The feeds allow retailers to build mobile apps fast, and with more functionality, including in-store features that use web data, the vendor says.

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Mobile commerce technology provider Usablenet Inc. has begun offering retailers a new service designed to reduce the time needed to create complex mobile apps, the vendor says.

The Usablenet API Service can convert any Internet-based content a retailer needs—including its shopping cart features and functions, inventory lists, product information, and data from social media—into a format that allows the content to be exported for another use via an application programming interface, or API, according to Jason Taylor, Usablenet’s chief innovation strategist and advisor to the CEO. An API allows data to flow between applications, such as from a web site to a mobile app.

The Usablenet API service allows retailers to combine data sources in new ways, Taylor says. For example, a retailer might want to add to its smartphone app a feature that enables a shopper to read product reviews from the retailer’s web site while she is browsing in a bricks-and-mortar store. And rather than showing all the reviews, the retailer can use that store’s inventory data to show reviews only for products in stock at that location, Taylor says. U.K. department store merchant John Lewis Plc, for one, has been using Usablenet APIs to pull several features off its desktop site and automatically adapt them to the mobile web and mobile apps. Those features include the desktop site’s product categories, sorting options and search, including predictive type-ahead search, according to Usablenet. An API also allows the retailer to use its mobile web checkout inside its app without forcing customers to exit the app.

“Retailers want a native app, but the platform they use for the web site doesn’t usually have a robust API built in,” Taylor says. Usablenet has spent 12 years working around that, he says. It began by converting its clients’ e-commerce web site data into formats it could use to createmobile commerce web sites. It later expanded its capabilities by using the same method to create tablet-optimized sites, applications for digital kiosks, and now mobile apps. The vendor over time became able to create an API for any Internet-based data source, enabling the data to be output for use in another venue, such as in a mobile site, app or another digital shopping tool, Usablenet says. With APIs in place, developers can build mobile apps in a matter of weeks, rather than months or longer, Taylor says.

Pricing for the API service starts at about $100,000 and increases with the complexity of the retailer’s data needs, according to Taylor. The company can create a set of APIs for retailers within eight to 16 weeks, he says. Retailers can build apps using the APIs in-house or hire a development firm such as Usablenet.

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