Staples speeding to market with mobile sites, tests SMS

Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS) is rolling out a series of redesigned mobile sites, new apps and is testing SMS messaging, as the retailer tries to speed to market mobile sites to meet consumer demand.

The office supply chain is the second largest online retailer, after Amazon, according to Faisal Masud, executive vice president of global e-commerce. Masud told attendees at the IRCE Focus: Mobile Commerce conference in Orlando, Fla. that mobile is the hub of Staples' cross-channel shopping experience, according to Internet Retailer.

Over the last year, Staples has been rolling out optimized sites for both desktop and mobile. Coming up, the retailer will be updating its smartphone app and tablet-optimized site, and this spring will launch its first iPad app.

Staples is testing SMS to communicate offers via mobile devices and measuring shopper responses. The program is being promoted on in-store signage. Shoppers who register receive instant discounts and special offers.

Staples plans to build and maintain separate mobile sites, rather than responsive Web design that adapts a single site to multiple devices, as it races the sites to market. Responsive design is in the works, but speed to market is the priority for Staples.

"As much as we want to go to responsive, there's not time right now," Masud said. "We have to fill a short-term gap where we have a lot of traffic going [to mobile]."

Masud told attendees that, since their launch, mobile site app redesigns have boosted Staples' mobile conversions and sales by triple-digits, reported Internet Retailer. Roughly 70 percent of emails to shoppers are opened on a mobile device and Staples now has one million app users.

The speed at which shoppers are shifting to mobile, combined with the changes that digital is making in the office supply category, is forcing Staples to move more quickly. Sales of core product categories for the retailer such as ink and paper are decreasing as office needs change. Mobile shoppers are more tech savvy and more likely to shop for different products than non-mobile shoppers. So Staples is changing the way it presents products to mobile users and adding new SKUs as assortment needs change.

This rapid shift is forcing a massive re-organization within the IT department, said Masud. There are hundreds of new hires, a focus on partnerships with online-only retailers and two new digital technology centers, or learning labs, in Seattle and Boston.

For more:
-See this Internet Retailer story
-See this Mobile Commerce Daily story

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