Catalogs find a home of their own in Apple’s app store

March 13, 2012 02:15 PM

Just as a sign by the road makes it easier to find an attraction, Apple Inc.’s decision last week to debut a separate Catalog category in its iTunes app store should make it easier for consumers to find retailers’ catalog apps.

Apple, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, previously placed catalog apps for its popular iPad tablet and iPhone smartphone in the Lifestyle category. Creating the Catalog section could be a boon for retailers and companies providing catalog apps.

“Many more thousands of consumers will see the category,” says Joaquin Ruiz, CEO and founder of Padopolis Inc., which created the Catalog Spree app. That means more awareness of the catalog apps and the retailers they serve, he says. In the two and a half days following the release of the Catalog category, the number of Catalog Spree downloads in the iTunes app store increased by 15% over similar periods, Ruiz says.

Creation of the category signals Apple’s recognition that consumers are shopping on tablets, says Peri Kadaster, vice president of marketing at CoffeeTable, an app that aggregates retail catalogs. “Catalogs on the iPad present not only a rich, visual experience, but also a source of inspiration and product discovery,” Kadaster says. “Tablets are best suited for a lean-back experience. Whereas most e-commerce experiences on the web are intent-driven, as in ‘I need to buy a flight, I want a specific book,’ catalog shopping centers on discovering new products. And catalog shopping on the tablet offers an ideal leisurely context for this discovery shopping experience.”

The new category also is part of a larger Apple strategy to embed itself where it can gain market share, Ruiz believes. “Apple purposely did not add a shopping category,” Ruiz says, because the iPad has become an attractive vehicle for catalogs. It can be another way to deliver catalogs to consumers, he says.

Catalogs, along with books, news and magazines, comprise three very large publishing industries, he says. Apple began offering its iBooks app in 2010 and its Newsstand app in 2011. “Apple goes after markets where technological disruption can lead to market penetration,” Ruiz says. If that indeed is the case, Apple is not saying. It did not respond to Internet Retailer questions about the Catalog category.

Apple may eventually enable shoppers to use their iTunes accounts to pay for purchases within catalog apps, suggests CoffeeTable’s Kadaster. “Window shopping is entertainment, but ultimately shoppers want to buy things,” CoffeeTable’s Kadaster says.

There are other examples of Apple at least extending iTunes payment capability. Customers using an AppleTV media device can sign up for a Netflix Inc. account and pay for it with an iTunes account, Netflix says. Netflix is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.




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