Remaining in tune with customers is arguably the most important challenge retail companies must consistently achieve to remain successful and competitive. In order for them to do this, they must understand their customer deeply, and be able to offer them exactly the solutions and products they want in the most accessible and convenient ways.
The latest growth trend assisting retail companies to achieve these objectives is investment in retail apps – aka, mcommerce. These retail platforms are created specially for portable devices, offering a personalised shopping experience that is accessible exactly when consumers have intent to buy. Really it’s a no-brainer that consumers and retailers alike are benefitting from (and investing in) these evolving services, and as the accessibility and user experience of these platforms are only improving, it’s also not surprising to learn that 88% of shoppers (a report by Apptentive) now use them. Not only are they using them, but users are purchasing on them more and more, with a total conversion rate on mobile apps of 120% higher than retail websites in 2017.
Here are what we think are the most important features that should be included in any retailers new mobile app, and exactly why they could be so beneficial:
SPEED and ease of use
Feature: Anything enabling smooth and swift pathways to purchase. This element of convenience can be taken as far as you would like: Dominos went the whole hog in 2016, testing a mobile app that allowed customers to order a pizza simply by opening it (dangerous). Other easily implemented features that could increase an apps usability are contactless and biometric thumb-recognition technology payment options, which have also been found to be of high importance to over 20% of consumers.
Benefit: Efficiency and ease of navigation is arguably the key aspect that can make or break an app platform. The opportunity is rife with around 82% of time spent on mobiles being on apps (ComScore), and consumers preferring to use them over mobile web platforms to fulfil their retail needs. BUT this preference was only for apps that are specialised, streamlined, and in general easier to use than the alternative.
Feature: A simple, easy and interactive loyalty programme with rewards and incentives that your consumers will respond to. The app should enable easily-monitored schemes that outline all the rewards offered plus how to track and ultimately achieve them, with new incentives added regularly to continue enticing loyal customers.
Benefit: Apps offer the ability to connect with customers via specialised loyalty and rewards programmes, and considering 72% of people in a survey would select the store they were a loyalty member with over alternatives this is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. In a Statista report, ‘Incentives and loyalty schemes’ and ‘rewards for using’ were found the two most important things to consumers in an app platform at 54% and 38% respectively.
Feature: The advancement of several augmented reality (AR) technologies now means that retail apps can really bring their products to life from afar. This technology can revolutionise online shopping in multiple ways, enabling customers to check product sizes before they buy (IKEA is pioneering in this, as they recently produced an app enabling furniture to be projected into a room in life-size dimensions) or giving better insight into how it’s used.
Benefit: The issue of not being able to see products and their dimensions in the flesh has previously left many online shoppers refraining from a purchase, or returning items. Augmented reality for various uses was the most voted for technology that customers wanted to feature in a retail app in a Statista report.
Chatbots and helpers
Feature: An instant chat platform, preferably accessible at all hours of the day, that customers can direct their queries to using their mobile app. The bot can either be a human assistant, or it could be programmed AI as these systems improve over time.
Benefit: 57% of respondents revealed in a survey that they would rather consult a mobile phone than a sales associate. A trend of growth in the use of chat bots have been found to improve user experience ratings significantly in retail apps, and they have been successfully used to provide fast solutions to 78% of customer search queries (SmallBiz Trends).
Feature: accessibility can be enhanced through the distribution of alerts and notifications: a direct method of reaching users. It is important to consider whether your notifications are as personalised for your customers as possible; 46% of users agreed that it’s important that these alerts feel personalised and specific. The more personal an interaction feels, the more likely people are to connect and convert through it!
Benefit: Customers are highly accessible through apps once they are downloaded. The opportunities to reach the right users at the right times are undoubtably greatly increased with app platforms – it’s a well-known fact that mobile devices are GLUED to people’s beings. What’s more, 65% of users open their push notifications very regularly (SmallBiz trends).
Feature: A platform that enables users to see reviews from other shoppers and integrates with social channels. This could be enabling users to share products to their social channels, to see if people they know have shopped, or creating an aspect of community within the user experience.
Benefit: Around 41% of respondents said they would like to integrate their retail apps with social media accounts (Mobile World Live), as it enables them to have a more personal experience. Also, statistics suggest that social-driven retail sales and referral traffic are increasing at a faster rate than any other online channels (Business Insider UK).
If you think you need an app or even want to explore the idea of it, we are here to help! Did you know that we offer FREE one hour workshops for anyone with an app idea? That’s right, free. All you need to bring to the session is yourself. We provide the fuel (coffee), the whiteboards and our tried and tested process. Want to learn more about this? Check out the info page here.
Not quite ready for a one hour session but want to learn more about developing an app? Read our recent blog post containing our TOP TIPS for finding a development partner.