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If the iPhone app fits, wear it

As iPhones grow in popularity, a well-tailored app could open up a new marketing dimension for retailers

Nearly a year after the launch of womenswear chain Oasis’s iPhone application and just a month after consumer magazine Grazia published an issue in 3-D with its own iPhone app, 2010 could see a boom in fashion-related apps as consumer take-up of the iPhone grows.

With more than 150,000 iPhone apps currently available, the competition is tough. Development can also be a long-winded process. Nick Gillett, managing director of digital agency Tangent One, explains: “Creating an app is rarely a significant technical challenge for experienced developers. The difficulties occur once you’ve made the app, when Apple’s approval process can occasionally prove long-winded and, far more importantly, it can be tough for the app to stand out.”

With this in mind, it’s important for businesses to decide whether an iPhone app will be suitable for their business and what they want to gain from it.

Oasis’s iPhone app had received more than 16,000 downloads from 65 countries by the beginning of this year. Being one of the first fashion retailers to launch an iPhone app would of course have increased the probability of extra downloads from curious iPhone users and rival retailers, but Oasis’s success has proven that a young fashion audience is ready to embrace this technology.

Ecommerce specialist Drivebusiness has launched iPhone apps for young fashion chain All Saints in the UK and US. But its marketing director Stuart Aplin agrees the tool isn’t for everyone: “If you can’t have an app that has been carefully thought through, offers your customers something unique and compelling and has a specific role to play in a wider multi-channel strategy, then don’t bother having one.”

But as both All Saints and Oasis have shown, a number of customers are ready to shop on the move, so fashion businesses should be looking to include an iPhone app or another form of mobile marketing in their future strategies.

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