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What works: Staples or Office Depot’s multichannel mcommerce approach?

June 18, 2012

Smart mobile retailers know that in order to drive online sales and foot traffic, having both a mobile site and app is crucial for ROI and building loyalty. Here’s a look at how the competitors’ mobile sites and applications stack up to each other.

“We view mobile as an additional channel that lets us get that much closer to the customer and allows us to provide added value anytime and anywhere,” said Prat Vemana, director of mobile  ecommerce acceleration at Staples, Framingham, MA.

“Mobile is also a channel of innovation that allows us to explore new avenues in ecommerce, all with the end goal in mind of solving customer pain points at their time of need,” he said.


Mobile site
Staples has both a mobile site – – and mobile apps for both iPhone and Android devices.

For its mobile site, Staples has focused on replicating a slimmed down version of its desktop site with similar promotions and offers. For example, both the Web and mobile site offer shoppers free shipping on offers more than $45.

Products are broken out into categories on the home page of the site – including paper, computers and printers – to make it easier for shoppers to find exactly what they are looking for.

Staples’ mobile site

Compared to the Web site, the store locator feature is prominently displayed in the middle of the page with banner ads that encourage users to download the company’s app, which is aimed at building the Staples Rewards program.

However, in order to download the app via the banners, users are taken to a mobile landing page where they have to click on a link to either Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Instead, a simple device auto-detect could direct users to the right App Store automatically, which eliminates a step for users and might lead to more app downloads.

The landing page to download the app

Elsewhere on the mobile site, users can click to download the app and be taken directly to the correct app marketplace.

Overall, Staples’ mobile site is simple but effective.

“We know that a large percentage of our customer emails are opened on a mobile device so a robust mobile site provides the best landing environment,” Mr. Vemana said.

“We prioritized features that serve the customer on the go, including a store locator, directions with GPS and the ability to check store inventory,” he said

Mobile app
Staples shows off its real mobile chops in its app though, which includes bar code scanning, location, rewards, commerce and deals.

Staples’ iPhone app

The main goal of the Staples app integrates with the company’s loyalty program and enhancing the in-store experience for shoppers.

For example, the mobile app includes a bar code scanning feature that can be used to snap UPC and mobile bar codes to add another layer to a consumer’s in-store experience.

Via the app, users can also sign up for the Staples Reward Program and manage their accounts.

Staples is also aiming to build loyalty via a shoppable circular ad that gives users an incentive to open the app on a regular basis.

If shoppers are looking for a specific product, users can take a picture inside the app and email their request. A customer service representative then helps users hunt down the item.

Office Depot

Mobile site
Compared to Staples, Office Depot’s mobile site is different because it is not a replica of the company’s Web site.

Instead, Office Depot has focused on two main areas – shopping and customer service.

Consumers can access the site by typing into a mobile browser.

Via the mobile site, users can log-in or create an account to build shopping lists and track orders. Users can also store items as favorites via their account.

Certain features, such as email and SMS sign-ups show that Office Depot is aiming to build more loyalty into its mobile site.

Even though Staples’ mobile site also incorporates an email opt-in, it is not promoted as prominently as Office Depot’s is.

Office Depot plays up loyalty with its mobile site

Calls-to-action on the home page of the site encourage users to download the company’s mobile app. When tapped on, users are automatically redirected to the App Store.

“At Office Depot, our goal is to provide our customers with an exceptional shopping experience in any and every channel that they choose – this includes online, in our nationwide retail stores, through our sales force, catalogs, via telephone and through mobile devices,” said Carl Brisco, senior director of global ecommerce at Office Depot, Delray Beach, FL.

“We also recognize that customers like to use mobile devices for some purchases, but want to touch and feel certain products and they rely on our retail stores for that experience,” he said.

Mobile app
When it comes to Office Depot’s mobile app, it more closely resembles the company’s Web site with a swipable gallery at the top of the page that lets users browse a small selection of current promotions and deals.

Office Depot’s iPhone app

Compared to Office Depot’s mobile site that plays up loyalty, the main goal of the app appears to be getting consumers to shop. Users can still log-in to their Office Depot account to track orders, view previous purchases and change account information.

Similar to Staples’ mobile app, a bar code scanner is built into the app to let users scan mobile bar codes and UPC codes.

Office Depot is also aiming to drive in-store traffic via its app. Using the handset’s GPS, consumers can find and save the nearest store, including directions and contact information.

Similar to Staples, Office Depot also aggregates weekly circulars into the app. However, the circulars are PDF versions of the ads and could be made more interactive by being shoppable.

Time-sensitive deals are included in the app and users can view discounted products by category. Giving users an incentive – in this case a discount – means that consumers will want to shop more via their devices.

“Our mobile iOS and Android apps offer a robust environment by taking advantage of mobile phone technologies native to the platform,” Mr. Brisco said.

“Simpler navigation and button layout provide our customers a friendly and more convenient online shopping experience while saving our busy customers time when they’re trying to find the products they need to purchase,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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