Shopping on smartphones is becoming easier and the experience is getting better, drawing in all kinds of consumers who want to shop on the move, compare in-store prices, or check out the product and then shop on their phone while standing in the aisles. The phone is becoming the default device for lots of people even within their own home.
But for all its broad appeal the smartphone is perhaps most importantly the best route to reach, engage and sell to younger demographics such as in-demand millennials. Their phone is where they connect with friends, listen to music, play games and – increasingly – where they shop.
As such retailers need to ensure two things: a great mobile-optimised online shopping website and a brilliant app. Some consumers prefer to use a mobile website, others prefer an app. Many may use them interchangeably and all will expect to have the luxury of choice – particularly younger audiences who feel less loyalty towards particular brands and are more willing to take their custom elsewhere in the face of experiences that don’t live up to their high expectations.
The relative newness of apps and the fact that many succeed or fail based on the user-ratings they receive in app stores mean many companies are still learning lessons the hard way about their app strategy.
However, there are some guiding principles which retailers would be wise to consider, especially given the role of their app in engaging the next generation of shoppers:
The importance of brand
As retailers wrestle with omni-channel they will find out for themselves just how important it is to represent their brand equally and clearly across all channels. If that means updates to branding guidelines, to ensure the brand can work as well on an app as it does on a store front then so be it. It will show consumers that the brand is serious about all its channels and that discipline and professionalism will convey other important qualities such as trust.
Deliver the same great experience
Shops invest a great deal of money in the in-store experience, from décor to staff training, and many have spent a lot of money ensuring their website is fast, effective and delivers a great experience for consumers. The same must be true of a mobile app. Functionality is simpler, but that doesn’t mean the experience shouldn’t still look and feel great. The app should look premium in design and deliver a great, intuitive experience. Companies should keep a close eye on reviews to ensure they are delivering the experience customers want.
Ease of use is crucial
A good app just works. If it doesn’t younger users in particular will just look elsewhere. It needs to be effortlessly easy to use. Any configuration or settings which can be tweaked to a user’s preference need to be simple to understand and implement and navigation must be intuitive. Testing, testing and more testing is the key to getting this right. As is responding quickly if it becomes clear users are struggling with any area of functionality.
Show the customer they are valued
Shoppers want to know they are valued and that their custom is appreciated. In store it is easy to achieve this but on an app, where things are far more focused on a quick, easy transaction and any complexity is stripped out, it is more difficult to show the customer they are valued. However, one key way of showing this is to listen and respond. App users are prone to share feedback and as such retailers would do well to listen and quickly correct areas of concern or complaint. Get updates out quickly and make clear what has been improved and what additional functionality has been added.
Analysis holds the key to success
As well as reading feedback and keeping a close eye on reviews, companies must be set-up to analyse detailed data from their app’s back-end. Conversion rates and levels of shopping cart abandonment will give a good idea if customers are finding it hard to navigate from browsing to check-out and whether there are too many, or overly complex, steps. The data will give a clear idea of how the experience is being received by consumers, including those important young demographics who will be customers for many years to come if they find the experience worth returning for.