Kevin Murray, managing director of Greenlight Commerce, wants to see more retailers eschew the “me too” approach to mobile apps and says the secret to mobile retail app success can be simplicity. Here he gives his view on mobile retailer apps and how today’s shoppers interact with them on their smartphones and tablets.
The role of retailer mobile apps in today’s customer journey
There are few retailers that have really capitalised on the customer journey today. Many have focused on the “me too” approach of providing a mobile app for their customers as they are afraid of being left out rather than thinking about what they can add to the overall customer experience and engagement.
As mobile devices and their operating systems advance further, the new features they offer will power more innovative contributions to shopping and customer service. For example, photo capture for digital wish lists, face-to-face camera customer service and assistance or even personalisation based on behavioural tracking of your location will start to make its way into the customer journey. Some of these features will be obvious to the customer but the biggest impact will be from the ones that are not obvious to the customer, yet subtly effect the way they engage with the retailer.
The main pain points that currently exist around mobile app development
There are three main types of barriers to the success of mobile app development:
The general speed and consistency of data or location tracking is still not what it needs to be to provide a mobile experience that meets the expectations of an increasingly digital customer base. Mobile devices are built for data connections, but unfortunately there are situations where these data connections are lost and fall-back modes are needed. To overcome this obstacle, developers must focus on delivering solutions that have greater data resilience which means they spend more time on technical solutions rather than business solutions.
Enterprise data access
Enterprise data access is not so much an issue for mobile development, rather all the other applications connected to a retailer’s enterprise. Some mobile features are not possible because the data exists on other systems and the mobile itself has no access to the information. Retailers need to break down these barriers to connect the customer experience more effectively.
Phone providers continuously upgrade their operating systems and retailers must be able to adapt to a new set of routines and protocols or risk affecting their customers. Dealing with app failures or poor service in response to a new Application Programming Interface (API) is very costly and the best retailers will invest to pre-empt these issues.
Characteristics shared by the best mobile retailer apps
The best mobile retailer apps understand what mobile can do and have a specific use for the app, rather than considering it just another wrapper over an existing mobile web-browser.
Mobile apps that inspire brand engagement, not just shopping, are the ones that are really getting noticed. A loyalty app that tracks purchases and makes suggestions about how to spend points based on your location provides a great “value-add” to the end customer. Similarly, a DIY retailer that can help you select paint by providing colour matches to a photo or scan is another example of how retailers have established a specific use for the app. A successful mobile retailer app will establish a clear role in the digital journey to overall brand engagement, otherwise it’s pointless.
The secret to mobile retail app success can be simplicity; using this channel to serve existing shopping behaviours. For example, an in-store app that enables a purchase to happen without queuing increases conversion and enhances the customer experience for someone already intent on making a purchase at a busy time. In this way, the mobile app works as another channel to speed up the ever-quickening path to purchase.
Innovative approaches to app development
The emergence of new mobile app versions of existing websites and catalogues is a clever approach to app development. From the customer’s perspective, this is another touchpoint to make a purchase. For the retailer however, there are many benefits as they no longer need to worry about the maintenance overhead of managing different app versions. And what can they do with this left-over budget? Invest in further mobile app innovation!