Marxent launches “tap-to-buy” catalog app

Print catalogs are leaping into the digital age through new mobile technology from Marxent Labs of Kettering.

Ballard Designs, part of West Chester-based Cornerstone Brands Inc., this month launched Ballard+, a mobile application that allows users to browse and shop the retailer’s print catalog using image recognition technology.

“We think this is a very big idea,” said Beck Besecker, Marxent’s chief executive.

The free app features “tap-to-buy” shopping, product details and reviews. It works with Ballard’s December 2012 early winter catalog of home furnishings and accessories.

Shoppers point their iPhone or iPad camera at the catalog page to activate the app, which outlines products on the page with a white box on the device screen. Users tap the box for product information or to purchase the item from their device.

“This is designed to reduce the friction between the reading of the catalog and the actual purchases,” Besecker said.

Ballard is the first company to use Marxent’s VisualCommerce software, which is mapped to the retailer’s catalog pages and integrated with its online commerce system.

“Having the functionality of our online channels directly available with our print catalog creates an ease-of-use that will provide an innovative, digital experience for our customers,” said Ballard President Ryan McKelvey in a statement. Ballard prints more than 50 million catalogs annually.

Unlike the marketing, branding and gaming mobile apps that Marxent creates for clients, VisualCommerce is a proprietary product. Besecker said the technology is applicable across all print media, including magazines and newspapers.

“Once you can recognize physical objects and images in print, you can really change the way people engage in a mobile experience. It can be much more interactive with the world,” Besecker said. “That was our premise for starting the company.”