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Fashion retailer Zara released an iPhone app recently, which falls well short of what a retailer could achieve with an iPhone app, in terms of promoting products and providing useful information for users.

The app offers a few pictures of its clothing range and new arrivals, but little else. Having looked at the app, I do wonder why they have bothered at all...

What does the app do?

While several retailers have been releasing mobile commerce apps recently, others are dipping their toes in the water by releasing apps which provide info on the latest products, and the Zara app falls into this category, allowing users to browse through some of its collections: 

What doesn't it do?

The problem is, once you get to a product, all it does it show a single picture, with no other information at all:

If I was interested in the jacket in the screenshot above I might want to know the kind of material it is made from, what sizes it is available in and, oh yes, the price.

There is also no store locator tool or even a contact number, which is a big missed opportunity, as customers who decide they like an item would surely appreciate this information. Indeed, a recent survey put finding the local store at the top of the list of most popular shopping activities for smartphone users.

If I did persevere and go to my local Zara store and decided to buy the jacket, other information might be useful, but this is missing too.

For example, why not provide the product name or item code so I phone or go to an assistant in store to check prices and availability? Why would this crucial information be so difficult to add to the app?

Retailers are supposed to make it easy for people to buy from them, but Zara is making its customers work far too hard to find and buy anything from this app. While I suppose I should applaud it for creating an app in the first place, it seems to have missed an opportunity to promote its products more effectively. 

User reviews of the app

A quick look at the App Store tells me that many of the people who downloaded the app, presumably people with an interest in Zara and therefore potential customers, are pretty disappointed with the app.

Over 1,500 people have reviewed the app, so the interest is clearly there, but the reviews are overwhelmingly negative, making the same complaints I have just outlined about lack of prices etc, as well as the instability of the app.

Zara's Flash-heavy website

More than a year ago, I included Zara in a list of well-known retailers who were yet to sell online in the UK and, while some like H&M and Clarks have launched transactional sites, Zara has still not taken this step, which is a huge missed opportunity.

Worse still, the Zara website is pretty poor, and commits the usability crime of hitting users with sound when they open the website, something which is intrusive, and an instant turn-off for many web users. 

It is Flash-heavy, difficult to use, and like the app, doesn't give any information on prices, products titles, codes and more:

Zara product page

There is at least a store locator tool on the site, but it could hardly be more difficult to use. First of all, you will only see the link to the store locator if you move your cursor over the bottom 10% of the page, then you have to select your continent and country from a long, tricky to scroll list.

After this, rather than making it easier for users by allowing them to search by town or postcode, or even pinpoint the area on the map, you have to scroll up and down a list of 40+ UK stores, before attempting to click on the one you want (the site scrolls so fast, this can be tricky).

Then, when you do find it, the information provided is the bare minimum; no opening hours, no description of where it is or map for directions, just an address and telephone number:

The continuing refusal (if that's what it is) to sell online seems like a huge missed opportunity to drive extra sales, but Zara is not even using its web presence, and its mobile app, to drive sales to its stores.

Simply by providing some basic information and tools, such as prices, products codes, effective store locators, it could at least make more of its website to at least help customers browse online and find local stores. At the moment, it is doing all of these things either very poorly, or not at all.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 January, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Well, on the other end of the scale, I think it's useful... but I shop in Zara. Perhaps you prefer Primark? Although, I notice Primark's web presence doesn't have online ordering... or a complete product catalogue... or even a partial product catalogue.

Do I need a store locator? no. I know from experience where numerous Zara stores are across the UK and Europe.

Do I need a size guide? I know from experience Zara have pretty standard sizing (S, M, L etc..) and getting the right fit is more about trying the clothes rather than reading a heavy X, Y size guide which are more oftern than not wrong anyway.

I know from experience Zara have a fast turnaround of products, if you don't pop in every couple of weeks or so you may miss a cool product... for me, this is where this app is useful.

It's simple, and to the point... I can see what new products (assuming the app does update frequently) are [possibly] in the shop. If I like the look of it, I will go into the shop and look at it.

Do I need to know the price? personally, not really, if I like it... I will probably buy it, but again I know how Zara price point products.

So... from my point of view, Zara know their customers, and have released a "Useful application".

Arguably I agree on the comment above, that web sites should be the first port of call before applications, but I like this very simple interface, that gets straight to the point without having to navigate around the mobile/commerce driven version of a site.

almost 7 years ago



Oh dear, I'm having flashbacks to the Whistles site. Lovely to look at but really not very useful if I actually want to buy something. Sites like ASOS have really raised the bar for online shopping and Zara et al need to catch up pretty quick. I suspect someone somewhere thinks they've ticked a box for 'iphone app' on their marketing plan without really thinking it through...

almost 7 years ago

Christian Louca

Christian Louca, Founder - New Mobile Start-Up at Stealth Mode

The problem is Robin, not everyone has an iphone or necessarily understand their way around Zara and its pricing.  Therefore this is a very excluding app for those new potential customers.  For those that are not familiar with the brand or its store locations this is not really useful.  Equally, if you were travelling to another city or town you were not familiar with, it would be useful for you to be able, at a touch of the screen, to find the nearest store.  I would also argue that they could have included customer discounts i.e informing you via the app of the latest promotions and offers to get the best deals possible.  Or even as you said would be useful, letting you know if items are in stock and what sizes are still available.

More importantly Zara's demographic audience are not huge users of the iphone.  Their main target group mostly own Nokia devices. Therefore, by Zara not having a mobile internet site they are really limiting their reach to all of their customer base.  It is very costly for Zara to promote the application with limited reach and far more cost effective for them to promote a mobile site where they can have all the same functionality and reach their mass audience. Any traditional marketing they run pushing the application cannot be measured with great accuracy.  Whereas, advertising a mobile site through traditional media and through other mobile internet sites can be measured to the penny and will produce far better ROI. Please do not get me wrong, I think it is great they have developed an app but starting with this first seems like their agencies creative director has just pushed this on to them!      

almost 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Robin, glad to know the app is of use to someone, though I can't believe at least a little bit curious about how much things cost when you look at them on the app?

almost 7 years ago


Phil Hammett, Phil Hammett

Robin - you represent one user profile, which I think this app has catered for, but Zara have missed loads of opportunities to look at other user profiles. You're clearly a fan of the brand to the extent you feel you have to passionately defend it, so I can see how the app is appealing but not necessarily useful?

Perhaps it's an intentional move by Zara to allow the clothes to stand alone, as a piece of fashion as opposed to a product - shrugging off the common attributes associated with online offerings from perceived lower level brands? Is there a sophistication, confidence or aloofness Zara are exhibiting by offering the product without any overt attempts to sell - in line with the low level of info / functionality on the website. 

All that said and done - my profile entering the site / using the app is: not familiar with the brand, not sure how widespread the stores are and what sort of price range the company fits in (or if they fit generally within my budget), very time poor and therefore can't invest time browsing with no answers to my questions. Pity, because I could do with a new shirt.....

almost 7 years ago



I worked for Zara for a couple of years and have to admit whether you are a regular customer or not, this app doesnt give much help at all.

I know Zara spend very little in terms of advertising and rely purely on word of mouth/reputation for the growth of the business - however online retail is huge and is a very big missed opportunity to expand.

I sometimes get the feeling certain stores like to have an 'exclusive, high end fashion look' online so decide against displaying prices and too much information -  Personally I'd prefer it if the website improved and they spent less time making below average apps.

almost 7 years ago



During a busy day, I passed a Zara store.  Curious to learn more, I googled them when I got home.  Their website was beautiful but editorial - pics that captured style and mood but nothing that helped me buy, call or even correctly request an item if I went into a store.  There was no way to order anything.  That was a couple of years ago.  Having read your article, I checked to see if the website had advanced.  There still appears to be no e-commerce feature.  Also, an item is shown in one color with no reference to other colors.  The photos are often not viewable in the 'detail' window.  There are no sizes.  There are several areas that seem to be the fashion industry talking to itself.  While interesting, I would categorize that separately as 'for industry' or something.  Anyway, with more thought and diligence, Zara can have a stuning site that is also informative and helpful.  Hopefully, they will help themselves by spending the time and budget to help consumers find appealing items, more information, and the ability to buy online. 

almost 7 years ago


Sarah Graveling

Even if the app and website are ‘brochureware’ why they don’t include the price on all products is beyond me. I bet they wouldn’t even do that in a magazine or promotional catalogue, so why online?

It may look nice, but most brands (Net a porter, Levi’s) can achieve style and usability leaving satisfied customers and a high conversion of online sales for the business.

This all reminds me of many moons ago when brands felt they had to have a ‘presence’ online. It didn’t really matter how useful the website was, it was just about having something there to satisfy the CEO.

Most of us have moved on...

almost 7 years ago


Adarsh Pallian

I wanted to reach out to Zara and show them the potential of what a really good shopping app could be with our platform: http://justbought.it

Can anyone connect me?

almost 7 years ago


Stephen Beck

Perhaps this is consistent with what i've heard is part of Zara's low cost policy - provide very little customer service in store and let the customer do all the work. Not sure how true this is but i've heard it from a few people and have definitely witnessed it while shopping at Zara.

It's pretty comical actually to see brands launching iPhone Apps that have little to no functionality or content. It appears Zara has simply pushed a mobile web site into App form. Their website on iPhone appears to be the exact same form as their iPhone App - a completely useless way to create an iPhone App.

In general, we're seeing so many companies jumping right past mobile web, where they could easily provide smartphone-friendly, location-based content to mobile users without forcing an app download. Instead, we see brands bypassing this simple strategy, and instead building an App, likely due to the buzz, which requires first: that user are on an iPhone, and second: that iPhone users/their customers are going to know the App exists and actually go through the steps of downloading it.

For a brand to put next to no content or functionality in an App is a huge disservice and waste of time to their customer who they expect will download it. It's a horrible strategy in this age of social media, where a poor brand experience is trumpeted in minutes of its launch across the net. The worse the experience, the faster word travels, the less likely the marketing investment will be effective, and the shorter lived the initiative.

With the iPhone App platform (and even mobile web) creating such a huge opportunity for brands to provide utility, or exclusive content, or useful mobile features tied into the core features of each device, it's amazing to see such major brands as Zara completely fumbling their whole mobile strategy.


almost 7 years ago


Lucy Longhurst

Just another example of Zara's shocking service. The products are all that stops this shop from being the worst on the high street -unbelievably surly staff, unhelpful "customer service" and a website that's almost totally useless.

almost 7 years ago


iPhone Apps

That's pretty funny that they would launch an app that doesn't allow the people to actually buy what they are looking at ...

over 6 years ago



Christian, Stephen - spot on. By the time the producers have carefully "mapped" out what the app should do and what not (which they clearly didn't in ZARA case) a decent mob site would have been in action and actually delivered mobile presence. iPhone = NOT always = app, we have the largest share of users on our Firezza pizza mobile store from iPhones, but it's a mob site.

over 6 years ago



Man, i can’t think of a better way to put it. You are very smart, and enjoyed your blog very much. Can’t wait for more! Thanks

over 6 years ago

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