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IPads should be top priority for retailers: Charming Shoppes exec

September 14, 2011

Charming Shoppes operates the Lane Bryant plus-size apparel retail business

BOSTON – A Charming Shoppes executive at’s Annual Summit said that iPads are the single most important thing retailers should be focusing on.

During the “5 Lessons Learned in 15 Years of Cross-Channel Shopping” session, the executive addressed best practices for retailers. One of these included the need to make it easy for customers to shop however they want to.

“IPads matter a lot,” said Bill Bass, president of direct for Charming Shoppes, Philadelphia. “The shopping experience on an iPad is materially better than on a Web site.

“I have come to believe that this is the single most important thing going forward,” he said.

Charming Shoppes operates retail businesses under the Lane Bryant, Catherine’s and Fashion Bug names.

The iPad factor
Charming Shoppes does not currently have an iPad strategy but is closely looking at the space.

The importance of iPads derives not only from the device’s interactivity but from the continued shift toward online shopping.

“We are not doing anything with iPads right now but we are going to start right away,” Mr. Bass said. “Thirty percent of store-based sales will shift online.

“This changes store economics cataclysmically,” he said. “The economics for the overall corporation is better.”

While iPads are important for retailers, smartphones may not play as big a role.

“The form factor is too small,” Mr. Bass said. “If you’re a restaurant or Fandango, you definitely need a smarpthone.

“It really depends on the category for smartphones but iPads matter to everybody,” he said.

While mobile devices such as tablets provide a clear value for retailers, it is still unclear how much value social media brings to the table.

“Social media matters for services but not for sales,” Mr. Bass said. “No one has cracked the code on what you need to do here.

“I’ve never seen anybody make money from Facebook selling stuff,” he said. “In the long term, sales may matter a little.”

Retailers must try to not get distracted by some of the newer technology and services that are getting talked up unless they can provide a real value.

For example, many retailers and brand marketers are enthusiastic about foursquare right now.

“With foursquare, people are saying, ‘Hey, we need to be there, everybody is going to be doing it,’” Mr. Bass said. “But, when you really look at what causes a Web site to win, it is search and fast checkout – that are the things that makes customers’ lives easier.

“Foursquare does not make people’s lives easier,” he said.

 QR codes are another possible distraction.

 “I personally have never seen anybody use a QR code,” Mr. Bass said.

 “QR codes are an invention of the print advertising industry to try to make themselves seem relevant,” he said.

 The best strategies help retailers improve the shopping experience and drive sales.

 What makes a great ecommerce site great is ease of use around search and quick checkout.

 “The rhythms and dynamics of the Internet are different than bricks-and-mortar stores,” Mr. Bass said. “Customers really like speed and convenience – pretty pictures don’t get them enthusiastic.

 “You want to make it easy for customers to shop however they want to shop,” he said.

Final Take
Bill Bass is president of direct for Charming Shoppes, Philadelphia

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