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Despite the massive shift towards mobile commerce in recent years, surprisingly few retailers have managed to create successful, user-friendly iPad apps.

So it’s all the more impressive that Net-A-Porter has produced several high quality apps that cater perfectly for the iPad’s ‘lean back’ browsing experience.  

This time last year it was reported that 15% of Net-A-Porter’s traffic came from mobile devices, a figure that had increased from 10% in just six months, which explains why the brand places such great emphasis on its mobile strategy.

The luxury retailer successfully blurs the lines between being a publisher and an ecommerce store, so its iPad apps include a huge amount of editorial and video content in order to entertain and inform customers while also edging them towards the checkout.

To find out more about how Net-A-Porter’s mobile strategy will develop this year, I spoke to group mobile manager Sarah Watson...

1. Please can you briefly tell me what your mobile strategy is for 2013? Will the focus remain on your iPad apps?

Our mantra for last year was to create a mobile experience that was fast, easy and engaging. Mobile consumers now consider this a given and expect a whole lot more. 

For 2013 our focus is on optimisation and service. We aim to offer the best possible shopping and browsing experience anytime and anywhere, across any device.

2. What proportion of your sales and traffic comes from mobile? And what proportion comes specifically from your iPad apps? 

A significant portion of both sales and traffic comes from mobile and tablet and this has doubled since last year. 

3. I was very impressed with your Mr Porter The Tux app last year. What has the response been from customers, and has it been a success?

The Tux app was Mr Porter's first step in creating an iPad Magazine. It offers a cinematic journey with editorial content inspired by evening wear. 

The idea was to create a uniquely stylish experience and create an editorially-driven app that features an array of all-original content, imaginatively brought to life with a unique navigation interface, shoppable video and still-life images that react to touch. 

The response from customers has been amazing.  We have included feedback loops that have allowed us to make the app even better. For instance, the movie-sized Tux app is over 1.5GB because of the super high quality video content, so we have produced the "Tux Lite", a smaller version of the same app that customers can trial before deciding whether they want to download the full version.   

4. How long is the average shelf life of your apps? Is there pressure to always come up with new ideas to give customers fresh content?

Our apps fall into different categories like shopping and editorial and we have different expectations for each. 

We see our shopping apps as an extension of our websites. They offer our customers a native experience for both iOS and Android that has been fully optimised for each particular device. 

They are updated every six weeks with new enhancements and features and we will continue to keep improving and evolving them in line with customer feedback and technical innovation. 

The usage of our shopping apps continues to grow. For instance, in the last month we've had over 35k new downloads for the Net-A-Porter app alone.

Last month, across The Net-A-Porter Group, we saw over 99,000 new downloads from iTunes and Google Play, taking our total number of app downloads to 1.78 million.

Our editorial apps focus on the ‘lean-back’ experience that suits the iPad. Our unique editorial content is brought to life and is available offline.  

We also have more promotional apps that have a shorter shelf life but are a great opportunity for us to try out new technology. Mobile is a fantastic platform for trying new things; we have already experimented with augmented reality, gaming and image recognition and we've even built our own outfit builder for men.

5. How does the development process for your apps work? Is it primarily led by the editorial team or the mobile tech team?

The Net-A-Porter group has its own in-house mobile team as our mobile sites and apps are an important part of our overall brand experience. 

Mobile technology is moving incredibly fast and having our own internal team means we can be nimble and reactive as well as creative and experimental. 

6. You won our award for innovation in mobile marketing last year for an interactive shop window that used augmented reality. Do you think that AR has a future as a marketing technology, or is its value mainly for PR?

Augmented reality has already come on leaps and bounds since we launched our Window Shop campaign for Vogue's Fashion's Night Out and will continue to do so. A bit like voice recognition, it's out there, it works but it's not part of everyday life just yet.  

The more people become attuned to being able to connect the physical and the digital world the more we will see these technologies being used and the better they will become. 

7. You also won our Grand Prix prize for being the best overall winner. How did this award help to validate your mobile strategy both personally and with your bosses?

We were incredibly proud to win this award. We consider ourselves to be a fashion and a technology company and are passionate about the work we do in the mobile space. 

Technology moves so quickly that you sometimes forget to take a step back and look at what you've achieved. 

It's great to know that our innovation is being recognised and gives us motivation to keep building new apps and experimenting with new exciting technologies.

David Moth

Published 18 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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