In the aftermath of the new iPad (3rd gen) being announced yesterday, one small, but potentially profound change has occurred in the App Store. A new category has appeared: Catalogs.
On the surface it would appear as another categorization for apps that didn’t really fit into the previous sets of categories. Was it a Lifestyle app? Entertainment?
Beyond now properly assigning a landing pad for apps that existed only to highlight a retailer’s products, I think it will spur another venue for developers to contribute their skills in helping a retailer show off its product line in ways that make more sense.
Before, a retailer would really need to commit to having an app that did more than display a list of its items, and provide an ‘experience’. This was really not economically feasible for many smaller Mom and Pop and brick and mortar stores. Adding bells and whistles to an app that is mainly to expose product adds tens of thousands of dollars to a project. Combine that with upkeep and maintenance and product turnover, this really priced out the smaller retailers who could not financially afford to have a presence of that scale on the App Store.
The new Catalogs category I believe will allow a new way of showing product at whatever scale a retailer and other smaller entities may be able to afford. I can see smaller shops and enthusiasts (coin collectors, baseball cards, etc.) now being able to display their wares and opens up a new lines of business and interest in their product.
Along with that, developers now have new opportunities to build systems that appeal to these businesses. With the right integration, and a customizable front end, I can see catalogs with direct lines to inventory systems, allowing new ways to show off their products. While this was all possible before, and was actively being done for many of the larger retailers and product vendors, I think having their own space will bring additional focus that didn’t exist before, due to the competing space in the previous categories.
I think Apple did a smart thing here, and even though its a small change of just another category, they are opening up a lot of potential for both businesses and developers alike.