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Toys R Us tests mobile in newspaper circulars to drive in-store traffic

September 20, 2011

Toys "R" Us is one of several large retailers testing a new mobile circulars program

Toys R Us is one of several national retail brands that is testing a new program offered by The Associated Press and 40 newspapers that makes traditional weekly printed circulars available on mobile news sites.

The mobile circulars are enhanced with location-specific offers, the ability to create a shopping list and other functionality. Instead of launching a separate circular app, the AP decided to do an app-within-an-app in order to leverage newspapers’ existing mobile audience.

“Our primary goal is to give a tool for end users to be able to quickly, effectively and easily find the great deals available in bricks-and-mortar stores,” said Jeffrey Litvack, general manager of global product development in charge of iCircular at the AP, New York. 

“This is a new experience for consumers and retailers,” he said.

App within an app
The mobile program, which has been dubbed iCircular, is currently being tested by 40 newspapers, including the New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

The weekly sales ads will appear under a “Deals” section on each of the participating newspaper apps and mobile sites.

Some of the other participating retailers include Target, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Kmart, Macy’s and Staples. Regional and local retailers are also on the list.

“As our guests continue to evolve the way they receive information, we strive to stay ahead and evolve our marketing efforts to meet her changing needs,” said a spokesperson for Target, Minneapolis, MN. “We know that increasingly our guests are looking to integrate online and mobile options into their weekly shopping trips and the mobile Weekly Ad features mobile capabilities relevant to our guests.

“iCircular is one more avenue that our guests can view the Target Weekly Ad when and where they want it in the digital space,” said the spokesperson.

Both iOS and HTML5 versions of the app are available.

ICircular targets the nearly half of all Americans that already get their local news on a mobile device, per the AP.

The AP expects to reach between 5 and 7 million mobile newspaper readers over the course of the 3.5 month test. If successful, the app will be rolled out to additional markets.

“You can get people to download an app but how do you get them to use it on a regular basis?” Mr. Litvack said. “Newspapers have an environment where the audience is going back on a regular basis — we are leveraging that audience.”

The iCircular service focuses on attracting customers to local stores by automatically delivering geo-targeted deals and special offers.

For smartphone users, the service also provides tools to create shopping lists, connect to social media and store loyalty card information. Users can also check a store’s hours and see a map and directions for how to get to a store.

Additional functionality that is planned for a later date includes bar code scanning, couponing and inventory check.

Metrics are an important part of what the program can offer retailers and newspapers. The AP is using comScore’s Web analytics platform Digital Analytix to power the backend metrics and provide user engagement and conversion insights into the number of views, time spent on the site, purchase intent and purchases

The AP will also conduct focus groups and digital surveys.

“Everyone is very interested in this as a way to understand the generation of shoppers coming on to mobile,” Mr. Litvack said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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