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How retailers can build brand loyalty through mobile apps

by Wendy Wallner , 26.10.2016

As mobile technology has increasingly become an everyday part of Connected Consumers’ lives, mobile apps present a unique opportunity for retailers, offering a direct line to consumers on the devices they carry with them everywhere. While branded apps have the potential to enhance the shopping experience, increase conversion and promote loyalty, they are constantly competing for the space on your mobile device with other apps, often being deleted or ignored after a single use.

So, how can retailers design apps that transcend “one-off” usage and win real loyalty? Here are a few proven winning ways:

  • Inspire FoMO (fear of missing out) – Offering pop-up sales, information and other things on a time-sensitive basis throughout the year can attract shoppers and keep them coming back. Amazon’s Prime Day, for example, leveraged the feeling of FoMO by showing a timer on sale items with a status bar letting users know how many of them were still in stock. Amazon’s app also provided a watch-list of products that alerted users when a deal on items they were interested in went live. However, frequency is key, and they have continued to leverage FoMO post-Prime Day with Lightening Sales that are personalized based on items consumers have searched for in the past.
  • Encourage exploration – Browsing the web is the new daydreaming, a new way of killing time for today’s Connected Consumers. But apps used for e-commerce aren’t typically designed for unfocused browsing. They are primarily used by consumers who are serious and ready to buy, designed more around the transactional experience. If app designs were more attentive to encouraging exploration, comparison shopping and wish fulfillment, they would be more convenient for browsing, which could translate to more usage.
  • Provide more value – Shoppers will return to an app if it offers time and money saving benefits that they can’t get anywhere else. The Starbucks app, for example, allows users to store loyalty benefits such as coupons, deals, and points as well as offering a convenient mobile payment option. Apps that work in conjunction with a brick & mortar location to provide omnichannel perks can produce valuable benefits as well. The Kohl’s app provides free shipping if it is used to order an out-of-stock item while at the store, for example.
  • Make it easy to use – An effective app should be simple and easy to use. If accomplishing something on a website, the phone, or in-person is easier than using a mobile app, then the app is not serving its purpose. Tasks like making hotel reservations, finding restaurants, or checking the weather can all be done in no more than a few clicks on an app, whereas performing the same task on an actual website takes longer. Apps are meant to be used on the go, therefore the time it takes to use them can make or break the experience.
  • Bring consumers back to the app – Email messages from retailers typically drive readers to their website. By changing the direction of the funnel, retailers can encourage app use by creating a communication flow that pushes consumers to their app.

Mimicking your marketing on other platforms is simply not enough. Giving consumers a reason to download and return to your app can provide a number of benefits, including brand loyalty. The more frequently apps are used, the more they become ingrained in their users’ habits. Making them easy and effective to use while providing value that shoppers can’t get elsewhere are keys to success in the future of retail.

*’Taking the App Challenge: How Retailers Can Raise Their “Stickiness” to New Heights’ originally appeared in Internet Retailer.

Please email wendy.wallner@gfk.com to share your thoughts.