The web is getting more app-like every day, but there is still a business case for building a retail app.
The role of apps is evolving. Retail apps are becoming a platform to drive customer loyalty and create richer in-store experiences, in addition to their earlier transaction-focused role. Apps can differentiate the customer experience through sophisticated loyalty programs, gift registries, hardware (trackers, sensors, beacons), and advanced functionality (sizing with the camera, syncing between screens, location relevance).
Here are 3 reasons why you should consider building an app.
1. Loyalty and Rewards
Starbucks has $1.2 billion of their customers’ money prepaid onto plastic and virtual rewards cards – that’s more than most small banks. Starbucks customers are incentivized to load their cards frequently to get rewards, and 24% of them do it with the app. Beyond that, Starbucks was able to address one of their customers’ major pain points – waiting in line – through the app, with their Mobile Order and Pay system. This allows Starbucks to “extract higher sales, intensify customer loyalty, and heighten foot traffic.”
The Starbucks example shows that customers are motivated to spend money by loyalty. It also demonstrates the value of data gained through an app, which empowers retailers to offer a more relevant experience through smarter segmentation.
2. Enhanced In-Store Experience
Beacons are a relatively new technology, but more than 400 million are expected to be sold by 2020.
Beacons paired with apps can create personal push notifications for customers, based on their proximity to certain triggers. The shopper is always logged in on apps which allows for a much more personal and “always-on” relationship between brand and shopper.
Target and Macy’s were among the first major retailers to experiment with this new technology in 2015. Both brands were able to connect with customers on mobile, who were either walking by or in the store, to offer product information or promotions. It’s still an evolving technology, but the huge opportunity for retailers is exciting.
3. Deep Linking
Deep linking is basically a hyperlink but across apps. You can link between apps (think to click on a push notification that takes you directly to a calendar invite for an upcoming sale) or to a website. Deep linking also enables app content to be searchable on the web, and openable without downloading the app. Without deep links, app content is invisible to anyone outside the app.
Enabling deep linking to cross-app promotions is a basic necessity for serving better content to your customers. Your app also needs to register deep links so you capture organic search traffic, paid acquisition traffic, and email campaign traffic into your app. It’s hard to say exactly why, but research shows that retail apps with deep links have higher user retention – key for any company that values customer lifetime value.
Retailers are facing intense competition for their customers’ mindshare, but with the right technology and mobile marketing strategy, the possibilities for engagement are endless. The key is to figure out what your customers want, and then give it to them so they stick around.
While the mobile web is coming closer to delivering an app-like experience, mobile apps still have an important role in delivering advanced experiences.
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