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PacSun firms up mobile strategy for teen retail business

May 23, 2011

App for all stripes

Teen fashion retailer Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., better known as PacSun, has further bolstered its mobile credentials with the introduction of an iPhone application geared to handle everything from searching, shopping and buying.

The Anaheim, CA-based company added a fully native iPhone app after optimizing its Web site to mobile devices, aided by mobile commerce platform provider Usablenet, New York. The app will initially target PacSun’s famed California lifestyle-inspired beachwear and casual clothing for the summer and then switch to fallwear as the seasons change.

“They’ve got a very young demographic and want to be involved in what they want to do,” said Jason Taylor, vice president of platform strategy at Usablenet, New York.

“Social-sharing and things like notifications and deals are very important to their user base because it skews a young demographic,” he said.

Founded in 1980, PacSun has more than 900 retail stores nationwide whose products are inspired by action sports, fashion, music and art.

Brands retailed at PacSun include Fox, Billabong, Element, Volcom, DC, Bullhead, Kirra, Nike 6.0, Hurley. Young & Restless, Quiksilver, Roxy, Lost, Rip Curl, Enjoi, Vans, Zoo York, Vurt, WeSC and Famous Stars and Straps.

Usablenet is the nation’s leading mobile commerce platform with clients such as Amtrak, Dell, Walgreens, J.C. Penney, Marks & Spencer, Fairmont Hotels, Expedia and Sunglass Hut.

Sunny-side app
For PacSun, Usablenet ensured that the iPhone app had daily deals, product wishlists and special promotions.

In addition, three features were created unique to the iPhone app.

First was the Outfit Builder that allows consumers to build their own outfit on the app and share the end result on Facebook via a post.

Next – and key for store-based retailers – is the integration of push notifications to recognize when a consumer is near a PacSun location via GPS. Such location-based targeting is designed to entice PacSun app users into the store with deals and discounts.

Finally, consumers can scan QR codes on PacSun window displays, in-store advertising or print ads and listen to music from New Zealand band, The Naked and Famous. The goal is to recreate on mobile the PacSun retail store experience.

For PacSun, the issue of mobile app versus a mobile site is a false debate. Indeed, the two-pronged approach to mobile is clear.

“The mobile site is the channel for everybody and the mobile app is about extending the brand and increasing brand loyalty,” Mr. Taylor said.

PacSun tasked Usablenet not just to work on the mobile site and iPhone, but also an in-store point-of-sale kiosk that lets store assistants gauge inventory and place orders for products not available on premise.

The in-store kiosk is backed by mobile technology and is Windows based.

“What we’re seeing from our clients is assistant –based kiosks in department stores and luxury stores are used to upsell in other stores,” Mr. Taylor said.

Packs some
In addition to creating awareness in-store, PacSun is offering a 15 percent discount on the next purchase to consumers who download the iPhone app directly from the Apple App Store or by scanning a QR code.

No doubt a retailer such as PacSun has to communicate in the language of its audience.

The company’s traditional Web site has strong imagery of surf, sun and fun. The site is fully ecommerce and is also a conduit to its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flick and iPhone app channels.

As of 3 p.m. ET on May 21, PacSun boasted 875,551 likes on its Facebook page.

Plans call for integration PacSun’s mobile efforts tightly with Facebook.

Through all the offline, online and mobile efforts, PacSun’s goal is to deliver a uniform shopping experience across all mediums. And like many retailers, rather than reinvent the wheel – at least in the early years – it prefers an out-of-the-box but customized offering for mobile.

“The biggest challenge we address is to give a best-in-breed mobile experience that their customers expect without PacSun having built that knowledge in-house or without having PacSun building the infrastructure support in-house,” Mr. Taylor said.

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Mickey Alam Khan is editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer and Luxury Daily. Reach him at

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