LAS VEGAS —
BrandSource introduced its own mobile app and Expert Warehouse II distribution operation that, together, could transform many of its retailers into “catalog showrooms” presenting more products, categories and services than ever before.
The introductions were made at the buying group’s national convention at Caesar’s Palace, here, last week which group executives said, when teamed together, could transform how BrandSource retailers can go to market.
The BrandSource mobile app is now available through the app store of iTunes. The app is free; compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and iPad 2; and requires a minimum iPhone OS of 4.1 or later. Wi-Fi, Edge or 3G network connection is sometimes required.
Initially available for major appliances, CE products will be available imminently, according to Bob Lawrence, CEO of BrandSource. And it will soon be available on other mobile operating systems as well, he said.
Lawrence said the group now owns 160 words in the apps store of iTunes that apply to major appliances that “bring up our app.”
The app “will open up as ‘BrandSource’ ” once a keyword is hit “but the retailers will have the ability to customize it to their store,” Lawrence said. The app enables consumers to find the nearest BrandSource available and lets consumers share info on a new product via email, Twitter and Facebook.
Lawrence said this app does not even the playing field since “there is no other home appliance app in the industry today. From a tech standpoint, it puts us one step ahead of everyone else out there.”
He described the app as a tool for consumers, but also for member retailers, because “the salesperson never has to leave the customer’s side. The app can bring up specs, dimensions, users’ guides, colors of products and availability.” There are buying guides for consumers, as well as 40-second videos on product categories on the app, Lawrence added.
The app enables consumers — and salespeople at BrandSource member stores — to research more than 7,000 appliances and electronics from an Apple device.
On the dealer’s site they can print out price tags, check manufacturers’ sites to see if products are available from them or Expert Warehouse II, and show competitive prices vs. big-box stores by ZIP code, and products can be shipped directly to consumers or to the store.
Jim Ristow, executive VP of CE, said that that this app will “really help legitimize the independent channel inside the stores, make them look and feel even more professional than the big boxes.”
Expert Warehouse II will enable BrandSource members to enter new categories such as small housewares, Apple-related and other tech accessories, tablets and PCs, and networking hardware for custom installations.
Expert Warehouse II is owned by BrandSource. Its partner is Ingram Micro, which signed on a month and a half ago when its partner for the original Expert Warehouse, Archbrook Laguna, filed for Chapter 11 protection.
Ingram carries 8,000 SKUs worldwide, Ristow noted, and will enable BrandSource members who sign up for Expert Warehouse II “to carry categories they don’t sell today, like tablet PCs.”
So far the new distribution effort is a hit with 25 percent more members signing up for it than an average month under the original program, Ristow said.
In terms of how Expert Warehouse II is critical to the success of the new BrandSource mobile app, Ristow said, “Our largest members are pushing us to get to as close to zero inventory levels as possible with everything happening in CE. The box stores are going that way. That’s why the app we have is so exciting — it completes that transaction. Our members can now literally become a catalog showroom with ‘virtually’ anything we can show with the app being up for sale,” Ristow said.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” he predicted. “We can talk about and show products, and install things, that we could never have done before” with the new app and expanded Expert Warehouse II, Ristow said.
In other BrandSource news, the group rolled out Shelf Source, enabling members to enter the kitchen cabinet retrofit market, which provides 40 percent to 50 percent margins, Lawrence said.
And Kathy Ireland was on hand, this time debuting a licensed home-furnishings line that includes Kathy Irelandbranded sets of knives and kitchen storage products, with CE and housewares coming soon. The first Kathy Ireland BrandSource commercials were being shot at the show with members, and Lawrence quipped, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were out next week.”