Brands today drive engagement and brand loyalty with their customers using a wealth of strategies, tools and technologies. Emerging technologies like voice and artificial intelligence provide new ways for consumers to interact with companies and for companies to interact with consumers, respectively. Delivering an omnichannel customer experience has become imperative as the lines between online and offline continue to blur. All of these new strategies, along with changing customer expectations, are driving brands to rethink their mobile experience.
Salesforce’s most recent State of Marketing report explains that marketing leaders are zooming in on the customer experience as a critical part of their marketing strategy. In the report, 68% of the marketing leaders surveyed said their companies are increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience and 64% are focusing more on providing consistency across every channel to accommodate changing customer expectations.
Within the omnichannel customer experience, the branded mobile app was once a checkbox item. Now it has shifted to a much more critical role — a brand’s mobile experience is the cornerstone of the customer relationship. The growth in mobile phone usage and the sheer volume of apps — over 2 million — are both clear indicators that customers live on mobile first. Is your mobile app strategy necessarily taking a mobile-first approach?
If you’re not treating your brand app like a core mobile product, then now is the time to start. Why? Follow the money: In 2019, U.S. mobile retail revenues are expected to reach $267.47 billion, up from $156.28 billion in 2017. More consumers are initiating or completing their entire shopping process on their mobile phone. A Google study from December 2017 showed that 46% of respondents said they prefer to use their smartphones for the entire purchase process. One of the largest brands in the study, Target, says that 98% of its customers do some shopping digitally and three-quarters start their experience on a mobile device.
So what can you do to rethink your brand app strategy to meet the expectations of today’s consumer and drive more transactions, revenue, engagement and brand loyalty? Here are four core strategies:
1. Treat the brand app like a core mobile product. When a brand’s core customer experience is not mobile-first (e.g., brick and mortar), the brand app can no longer just be an appendage to that primary brand experience. Development of these apps requires the same sort of strategy and rigor as a standalone mobile app; think about the mobile experience as being the primary customer experience. Think Amazon, Waze or Lyft. On average, smartphone users use nine apps per day and access 30 apps per month, out of about 70-80 apps installed on their device. To compete with the myriad apps available, your brand app needs to have a purpose and demonstrate value. While there are lots of new technologies that you can build into the app experience, like virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), don’t just add them for the sake of being new and trendy. Think about the customer experience first, align business goals and user outcomes and then design the technology required to make that experience excel. Only incorporate leading-edge technologies if they actually serve a purpose and drive consistent engagement.
2. Make mobile the front door to the customer experience. If more and more consumers are starting their shopping experience, for example, on mobile, then meet them head-on with the right customer experience. This approach puts more pressure on building an exceptional and personalized customer experience with the brand app. To build a mobile-first brand experience, you need to take a customer-first design approach. Start by understanding your different customer personas and identify their needs, likes and dislikes. Analyze their behavior to understand which parts of the customer experience drive the most value and rank those elements so you can prioritize your design/development. We surveyed consumers recently to understand overall what the primary reasons are that they download brand apps. The top three reasons were: promotions, exclusive deals/products (65%), loyalty program (59%) and wanting to make a purchase (50%).
3. Deliver a seamless brand experience. Make sure that you don’t overcompensate your mobile brand experience such that other elements of the customer experience lack the same focus. Even more critical, the brand app experience needs to be not only consistent with other elements of the customer experience such as website or in-store but seamless. If there are borders between those different experiences, break them down. Customers want to interact with a brand in the way that best suits their lifestyle and needs. It may be starting on mobile, then completing a transaction on the web and finally picking up the purchase in-store. It could be entirely mobile or start in-store and finish on their smartphone. So, if you’re not connecting every click and piece of data to move seamlessly between those different experiences, you risk losing a transaction at the minimum or worse, brand loyalty.
4. Reward loyalty. The brand app is the perfect way to engage the customer to drive brand loyalty and to reward their loyalty with exclusive benefits. These types of rewards are what consumers are looking for in the brand app experience. In the same survey we conducted of consumers, 72% said that the most valuable feature of a brand app would be loyalty benefits. Another 66% said that the most valuable feature of a brand app would be exclusive access to sales, events, limited edition products or services. Building in the right loyalty programs to your brand app can yield dramatic results. Our company helped Regal retool its customer loyalty program, which included its apps for iOS, tvOS and Android. By mapping out the different steps in the user loyalty journey, we were able to identify improvements at each step that rewarded frequent customers and better engaged the less occasional moviegoer.
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John is the managing director of MIT Agency which is a premium digital agency focused on providing pre-eminent technology services to ambitious businesses across geographies and industries. MIT Agency’s core expertise includes the planning, development, management & marketing of businesses and digital products with world-class user experience, artificial intelligence and scalable architecture.