Victoria's Secret currently has the number one Apple (APPL) iPad app. Like the softcore catalog, the app obviously has half-naked models as a draw, but the price point, slick design and hub treatment show that other companies, including Amazon (AMZN), could learn from the lingerie store.
It's free: It seems like a given since the decades-old catalog has been mailed to household free of charge. However, there seems to be no real rhyme or reason to app price setting: People Magazine gives the app version free to subscribers, while WIRED charges newsstand prices for each digital issue.
A traditional catalog isn't a magazine, of course, but the Victoria's Secret draw is closer to Playboy than Pottery Barn. Victoria's Secret could have easily charged $.99 for the fleshy app and made a little extra to go towards the development cost, but it wisely focused on getting the customer into the app and, in the long-term, promoting the lingerie itself. It also avoids the issue Playboy had, which had its models removed from the magazine app, by emphasizing the service element (selling clothes) instead of the models -- it's easy to see Apple having an issue if Victoria's Secret did otherwise.
Purchases are in-app: Another simple innovation: When customers want to buy a piece of lingerie, they can throw it in their in-app shopping cart and check out without closing the app itself. Customers can then go back to browsing.
Other app developers don't seem to get this simple idea. For instance, purchasing a book through the Amazon Kindle app requires hitting the search button, which closes the app and opens the web browser, and then finding the appropriate book, purchasing the book through the Amazon website, and finally reopening the Kindle app so it can download the purchase. I can imagine many an Amazon customer, distracted by another shiny thing on the Internet, have forgotten to reopen the app to download the book they purchased, if they ended up not purchasing it altogether. The same could be said for lingerie.
Creating a hub instead of a catalog: The Victoria Secret app goes well beyond the traditional catalog:
- Exclusive videos
- Store finder driven by Google (GOOG) Maps
- Multiple catalogs
- Smooth interface
- Easy connection to Facebook, Twitter, and email
It will take a while to see how much of a impact the Victoria's Secret app will have on sales, but it's a safe bet that the outcome will be positive.