The term “omni-channel marketing” is trendy right now, but the reality is that consumers don’t think about online or offline — they’re simply shopping. Still, that doesn’t mean that “omni-channel” is just a fancy buzzword: There’s nothing short-lived about the idea that today’s customers expect a seamless shopping experience regardless of engagement channel.
Increasingly, that buyer experience is flowing through smartphones and tablets. IBM studies predict that mobile will drive more than 50 percent of site traffic and more than 25 percent of sales during the 2015 holiday season.
In addition to making investments in optimizing sites for the entire mobile commerce experience, retail marketers are faced with the decision “to app or not to app.” It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, as it requires careful planning and valuable resources to create an app that enhances the customer journey.
So, how do you decide if you should make the plunge into building a mobile app? Consider creating an app if:
- Your app will do something your mobile site can't do (barcode scanning, iBeacons, augmented reality, etc.)
- Your user base has indicated they are hungry for an app from you
- The app offers something to entice users and keep them (rewards for loyalty, exclusive offers or discounts, etc.)
- The customer data from app users is valuable
- You’re prepared to dedicate the time and resources to help ensure a positive mobile app experience
OK, so let’s assume you’re ready to dive in and build an app (or upgrade an existing one). Here are three tips for adding value to the customer experience:
1) Use customer journey maps to gain perspective and identify opportunities for mobile app engagement.
Creating a customer journey map can be as simple or complex as you have the time for, but the result is worth it. In short, you’re looking for gaps in the customer journey that an app would help bridge. You can then design an app experience that fills in these gaps.
For instance, do you have a lot of product content that customers aren’t engaging with in your other channels? Would an app help you push out relevant product content that could help reduce customer service calls or reduce returns?
2) Integrate your app into your broader marketing efforts.
Simply put, to make an app successful it has to be incorporated into your overall marketing strategy and executed with your other channels. Remember your goal: to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their intent.
To that end, don’t manage your app in a silo. Your app is like any other channel — its effectiveness increases when it works in conjunction with complementary channels.
To achieve this, you’ll need tools that allow you to connect the behavioral data generated via app usage into your overall marketing database, and vice-versa. Likewise, email and Web activity should inform your app strategy.
Additionally, your app marketing should reflect the context of your overall brand experience. For example, let’s say a customer is part of your loyalty program. Your app experience should speak to your customer in the context of his or her position in your loyalty program, just like you would in email, direct mail and other channels.
3) Develop a plan for retaining app users.
Because most apps have a low usage rate, think long-term about your app strategy. If your product tends to be focused on a specific life event, such as a wedding or child birth, develop your mobile strategy so your app provides value to the customer outside of the single event. Developing practical tools for your app, such as appointment schedulers and reminders, can be helpful in prolonging your app’s usefulness, particularly if there are long periods of time between purchases of your company’s products or services.
Ultimately, developing an app may or may not be the right decision for your brand. As with all marketing decisions, you should balance the cost with the possible outcomes. If you decide to take the plunge, employing these three tips can help ensure your decision results in a positive customer experience for your mobile users.
1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Getting Started with Mobile App Push Notifications”
2) Blog: “App + Email = Ecommerce Done Beautifully”
3) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing”