How to build a better iPad app


The new Apple Store iPad app

The launch of the Apple Store iPad application this weekcracks the code on how to buildcompelling iPad apps that more fully take advantage of the device’s features while driving interaction and sales.

Apple unveiled its first dedicated iPad app for the Apple Store this week and includes top-notch merchandising and marketing tactics. Although tablets have proven to be powerful drivers in mobile commerce, few marketers have gotten a grasp on how to best leverage the devices for marketing since the iPads launch in 2010.

Apple is a brand in general where function follows form a lot of the time, said John Milinovich, CEO of Urx, San Francisco.

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Theyre continually defining themselves as a thought leader in the space by having something like this that is actually more sensitive to how a tablet experience is different than a phone or desktop, he said.

I think thats really what this is demonstrating more so than the fact that dragging things around on the screen will give you a better user experience.

Mr. Milinovich is not affiliated with Apple. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Apple did not respond to press inquiries. 

Apples bite
The Apple Store iPad app is all about playing up the tablets touchscreen features.

The app includes extensive pinch-and-zoom features to show either six or 24 of Apple’s products at once.

From there, consumers can zoom in on individual products to trigger additional photos and price information to pop up.

For example, a grid on the homepage of the app shows popular items labeled Now trending.

Instead of prompting a click-through on the products, consumers are encouraged to swipe a finger across the screen to flip through multiple pictures of the item.

A screenshot of the Apple Store iPad app

Additionally, a large universal navigation bar across the top of the screen shows Apples three main products iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to help consumers quickly find what they are looking for.

As consumers move down the screen, they can access the navigational bar whenever, which is a feature that most retailers could benefit from so that shoppers do not waste time toggling between screens.

There are also large, easy-to-navigate buttons that are lined up to cut down on scrolling. 

For instance, on the product page for the iPhone 5c, consumers can view all of the different colors of the phone on one page.

The Apple Store iPad app

Similar to Apples Web site and iPhone app, an in-stock inventory feature shows consumers which stores items are available in.

Gesture-based retail
Apples launch of iOS 7 earlier this year marked a big change for marketers in developing gesture-based and clean content.

Gilt and Fab are two other examples of brands that could benefit from gesture-based app features to help with product discovery.

Tablets have proven that they are commerce machines, but there is still a big opportunity around leveraging tablets into the store to create more compelling content.

For example, being able to use an iPads built-in camera to figure out sizing could help salespeople in fashion retailers get a better sense on what items are most popular or drive online sales.

It is a little bit of them flexing their tech muscle but also getting developers to think about how they can leverage this new form and the fact that there is a camera on the device that no ones thinking about yet, Mr. Milinovich said.

Mobile travels
As another example of how marketers are thinking beyond transactions with mobile apps, Priceline recently updated its iPad app with a new feature called Explore.

Explore uses an interactive touchscreen map that can be filtered by categories such as romantic or family-friendly searches.  

Priceline’s new iPad app

Additionally, consumers can access real-time availability of flights so that travelers are not making multiple searches

The update is meant to specifically hone in on tablet users that are primarily in research mode.

Priceline reports that iPad users are three times more likely to book a trip10 days in advance than smartphone users.

To date marketers have traditionally viewed tablets for commerce purposes. However, that could be changing as tablets ship into PC sales.

According to IDC, tablet sales were up 37 percent in the third quarter of 2013 to represent 47.6 million shipped units.

We set out to customize the iPad app experience to specifically meet the consumer demand on this channel, said Leslie Cafferty, spokeswoman for Priceline, Norwalk, CT.

They want to use their tablets to research and explore new travel destinations, so we built an experience that allows them to do so, she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York

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