Commentary

GNC Pumps Up Its App Strategy

GNC-App-BClaiming that its first edition of a branded iPhone app attracted over 100,000 downloads, health supplement retailer GNC launched a new version this week for iPhone and an Android version. The company says it incorporated feedback from users of the earlier version to refine and add new features. The GNC Live Well app now has a console feel to it -- a splash page of nine buttons outlining the functionality of the app, from immediate m-shopping to managing the loyalty card, scanning products, and setting reminder

In fact, it is a nicely designed multipurpose branded app that has enough features to keep a customer coming back. The scanner allows me to scan and shop for refills of the vitamins I already have on hand. The shopping interface offers multiple entry points for parsing the immense catalog on a cell phone: product categories, conditions and goals, brand and ingredients. It even indexes the catalog by user ratings so you can rapidly find only those products with a lot of consumer approval.

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The app has utility built in as well. A Reminder button lets you add supplements to a list with alarms that alert you to taking your pills. There is a Health Center that includes much of the supplement and condition information that you can also find at the Web site, but in a more navigable form. There is also a mini-app of nicely illustrated fun facts about your body to act as a kind of edutainment time-killer. Each fun fact ties in both to more articles and related products.

To be sure, not all is well in wellville. I encountered several glitches along the way, including buttons that just didn’t respond very quickly or at all and some weird formatting issues in some screens. Still, this is an interesting exercise in a retail app that tries to offer a broad embrace of sales objectives, content publishing and real utility. It speaks to how brands have to find the hooks that keep their apps top of mind with users by being entertaining, informative, utilitarian -- and even fun.   

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