Olivier Bernard on the changing face of shopping apps

Why retailers have to embrace mobile technology

App Annie’s EMEA general manager, Olivier Bernard, talks about how he believes shopping apps will become indispensable over the next five years.

In a competitive market, a sound strategy is vital to success. This is no different when planning the launch of a new app, ensuring it gains highest level of engagement for customers and provides a high-quality, mobile-first experience. 

To boost engagement many retailers are now using games or “gamification” to attract and retain their customers’ attention. This is in contrast to retail goliaths such as Amazon or Walmart who use apps as another channel for sales. These ‘new kids on the block’ use thoughtfully designed apps to solidify their brand identity and build customer loyalty. They provide mobile games for customers to play outside of their natural ‘shopping time’, increasing the number of touch points between the consumer and the business.

From a global perspective, L Brands, parent company of lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, added gaming elements to its app to boost customer engagement outside of the physical retail store and to acquire new users. The increased exposure and association with leisure time is a perfect brand-building exercise, increasing brand loyalty even when consumers are miles away from the high street shops and not browsing websites. By implementing interactive and creative seasonal marketing campaigns with gamification into its mobile user experience, L Brands can keep its core demographic engaged and excited.

In the UK, Tesco recently launched its ‘Tesco Discover’ app as part of an Augmented Reality promotion campaign. The supermarket included gamification features for ‘Big Night In’ products allowing consumers to bring a family quiz to life. Some retailer-specific apps also enhance the customer experience. Target’s Cartwheel for instance enables shoppers to manage and receive in-store redeemable mobile coupons from anywhere.

Another technology breakthrough, which has great potential to improve personalised and seamless customer experiences, are beacons. This technology, which uses Bluetooth’s low energy, sends a signal to any beacon-enabled smartphone app within 50 metres of a high street store. This makes it easier for customers to access information and product discounts. This technology provides invaluable data about customers’ shopping habits to retailers who can gain useful insights into their customers, creating a more personalised shopping experience. By integrating beacon technology into a window display, retailers can even start to engage with people who are passing by.

However, one obstacle to beacon technology’s potential success is that customers need to download an app for every store they visit. While customers may be happy to download the app of their favourite retailers, they might not want to download apps of the stores they rarely visit. If you already have a branded app with a sufficient number of downloads, the best solution would be to build your beacon-enabled feature on top of this adding location-based elements to it. Having an app which is already used and loved by your customers will add momentum to start your beacon app marketing strategy.

Technological advances, such as the rise of mobile shopping and beacon technology, have started to revolutionise the way consumers interact with retailers. In a survey conducted by Gallup earlier this year, 22% of shoppers said the rise of mobile technology has increased the amount of shopping they did in-store compared to online. We expect this to continue, with shopping apps transitioning from niche to indispensable for customers over the next five years.

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