3 Ways Retailers Can Drive Mobile App Engagement
Consumers expect more from the brands they choose to interact with, and retailers’ mobile apps aren't immune from this sentiment. Smartphones serve as the intermediary between brands and consumers, forming the connective tissue in complex customer journeys.
As the amount of time people spend on mobile platforms continues to surge — especially as they steadily return to the office or are otherwise on the go — offering a positive, differentiating mobile app experience is a must.
The good news is that retail brands are generally on the right track: 52 percent identified mobile app experiences as a primary vehicle to drive digital commerce activities, according to Gartner research. The not-so-good news: Retailers often view their mobile app as an extension of their website to drive promotional traffic instead of a differentiated, unique vehicle for brand engagement and purchases.
In a digital world where website experiences and search results help a consumer make decisions or accomplish tasks with little effort, retail apps must incorporate best-in-class features that offer a seamless shopping experience for consumers. Convenience, incentives and utility (e.g., speed, easy checkout) are now table stakes.
Many organizations develop a mobile app with a “if we build it, they will come” mentality, but should instead evolve it to a “if we build it right, they will stay” mindset.
1. Collect and create value with first-party data.
Given the changing privacy landscape, a successful retail strategy balances collecting first-party customer data and remaining transparent with consumers. The risk of not doing so? Over 50 percent of consumers will block or stop doing business when a brand communicates in a creepy or invasive way, according to Gartner’s 2021 Personalization Customer Survey.
To avoid the risk of potentially creepy personalization efforts, tailored help is the accurate and timely use of customer data by guiding, educating, reassuring or rewarding a customer rather than just displaying that data is known and has been collected. Gartner research finds providing tailored help can drive a 32 percent lift in commercial benefit compared to not personalizing at all.
A major arts-and-crafts store uses its app to familiarize users with key features and bring transparency to the reasoning behind opt-in data collection and push notifications. By showcasing shopping and access features, customers are given a reason to engage, enable app push notifications and join its loyalty program. In demonstrating the value of notifications while keeping the customer informed, the brand is well-positioned to build trust among its app users. By enabling notifications, the brand drives more frequent user reengagement, and maintains the ability to measure and correlate app engagement with loyalty efforts.
Actions for retailers:
- Make a list of data points you want to collect from your customers within the app and outline how each data point could be used to enhance the customer’s in-app or overall experience with your brand.
- Define how you will request opt-in for each piece of data and consult legal counsel to ensure data collection is explicitly outlined in the app’s terms and conditions.
- Ensure data is requested at the right moment in the app user’s journey (e.g., at the start, after a purchase).
2. Encourage in-app engagement beyond transactions.
Apps offer a unique space for retail brands to encourage brand engagement between purchases. These platforms are perfect for hosting content that supports product education or cultivates brand connection, rather than simply driving commerce-related interactions.
An American department store chain uses its app to include customers in its decisions around how to support local nonprofits. After making a purchase, loyalty program members earn “votes” to cast for what local nonprofit organization should receive a portion of the retailer's quarterly community donation. The retailer then transparently displays the results back to its customers, which builds a connection with its mission and values around giving and participating in the brand’s decision making.
Actions for retailers:
- Make a list of your brand’s values and competitive advantages. Brainstorm ways to showcase values and create engagement with these values within the app.
- Determine whether content created for other channels could be tailored and used within the app to support product or brand education.
3. Drive omnichannel experience.
Today, the strongest retail apps take hybrid shopping into account, with consideration given toward how to drive a shopper to the store or digitally engage with all the services offered by the brand.
Consumers are regularly using buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup features. Gartner studies also show over 40 percent often check online if a product is available before visiting the store, and nearly 30 percent will visit a retailer’s app or website to find their nearest store location.
An effective retail app makes it easy for a user to understand whether a product is in stock, where to find it, and where to even order it for pickup. This eliminates potential customer frustration stemming from an inability to locate the product upon store arrival, finding out the product is out of stock or the last unit was sold just minutes prior. Enhancing or adding these features will drive traffic and conversion in-store and improve CX, supporting year-over-year revenue growth and inventory management.
Actions for retailers:
- Assess current app features that support in-store traffic and experience.
- Survey customers to see which features and enhancements they would use.
- Scope the needed enhancements and investment required.
Looking forward, the vast majority of retailers tell Gartner they plan to increase investment in their mobile app experience to impact digital commerce. Don't risk falling behind peers that are already planning, scoping and delivering on enhanced app experiences.
Good apps make consistent investment in technology innovations, content development, upkeep, promotion, and training. Retail leaders that act on the unique opportunity their apps provide to drive loyalty, collect first-party data, and drive hybrid shopping traffic set themselves apart from the pack and position themselves to retain customer engagement as the retail landscape continues to evolve.
Related story: How to Leverage Your App to Get More Customers