Outdoorsy types who shop at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) can do so from their iPhone this holiday season, thanks to the work of Toronto-based Xtreme Labs that helped develop the app.
MEC has 16 locations across Canada but its reach extends beyond the immediate area of its bricks-and-mortar stores thanks to a bustling e-commerce business. Since 2000, MEC has shipped kayaks, backpacks, and headlamps to customers ordering from the online store. It’s consistently updated its e-commerce experience and tied it into the in-store experience, winning an award from Canada Post for 2012’s “Best Multi-channel Retailer of the Year – Large.”
Now its extending that online footprint into mobile commerce, or m-Commerce with a new iPhone app. It turned to Xtreme Labs for help with the product development and engineering. Apple’s iPhone platform was chosen to launch a mobile app for a couple of reasons, according to Jeremy Black, director of business development for retail at Xtreme Labs.
Looking at the analytics for MEC’s Web site revealed many iOS users were accessing it, more so than Android or BlackBerry users for example, he says. But more importantly, market research has shown that iOS users are far more willing to spend money via a mobile device.
“Most retailers are going iOS first for that reason,” he says. “Even if Android is a leading choice amongst your customers, those aren’t the people spending money on a mobile platform.”
The shift to mobile for MEC is about enhancing its brand engagement with its 4 million co-op members across Canada, Black says. Being near those customers – by being in their pocket – is a good way to do that. The app provides a convenient way to browse or search MEC’s catalogue of products, and contains detailed information and customer reviews of those items.
The app has received 66 reviews in the App Store, receiving a positive 4.5 star average rating. The app’s quick-loading and simple interface are lauded by most customers. Others suggest adding support for the MEC membership card and a bar code reader to check prices or product information in store.
The advantage of an app over a mobile Web site for online retailers is the ability to push out notifications, Black says. A native app can also be faster loading and run smoother than a mobile Web site. “Everywhere that you experience the brand, you’re going to have your phone with you,” he says. “That’s the glue that holds the experience together.”
An Online Publishers Association survey conducted in March 2012 of 2,540 online consumers projects that 15 million Americans make purchases on their smartphones each week.