Enticing smartphone users with high-tech functions and original content, Japanese businesses have begun engaging customers by releasing custom mobile apps for free download. In the process, they’re managing to slip in a strong marketing messages into the pockets of loyal fans and potential customers.
On Jan. 24, Doutor, a national chain of coffee shops. launched their Doutor AR app. Made to be used in conjunction with the free magazine It’s My Times, the app displays animation and text on the user’s smartphone via augmented-reality technology. Users simply hover their phone’s camera over special points on the magazine to view these extra features. The magazine, available only in Doutor shops, is designed to be read while customers relax with a cup of coffee. This app, available only until the end of February, is a clever way to attract more readers while also boosting brand profile. One of the attractions of downloading the app for readers of the magazine is the opportunity to watch and listen to a song performed by cover star Lisa Ono.
Another brand that is creatively engaging with smartphone app technology, is Wego. On Jan. 10 the second-hand clothes chain launched its own branded app, which offers free wallpaper, a GPS-aware store locator, staff blogs and photos of staff with information on how they coordinated their look. The app also seems to be yet another mutation of the charismatic shop assistant cult (shop assistants gaining near celebrity status).
Of course not everyone desires style tips from super trendy shop assistants. Dechau Pachinko parlor is targeting a slightly different user (predominantly male perhaps?) with its Dechau Girls Calendar 2012, a free Android app that utilizes the ever-popular beach babe. In case you didn’t know, the Dechau Girls, who have been touring pachinko parlors since 2007, cheer on players and hand out candies and hot towels. While they’re usually dressed in bright skintight outfits, this free calendar app gives fans a chance to see the girls relaxing at the beach in itsy bitsy bikinis.
The final app on our list also has a straightforward, unsophisticated appeal. Chiyoda, a company that owns over 1,100 shoe stores nationwide, has launched an app that provides users with discount coupons. Once users enter their personal info (date of birth, sex, location of the store they’re visiting), they can then receive coupons tailored to their needs. Nothing fancy — you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours — but for a country that’s obsessed with customer point cards and coupons, this is an app that’s bound to stick.