Mobile-enabled purchasing is on fire. Now is the time to get prospective customers connected to your brand and get your app into their hands so they will be poised to shop with ease as November rolls around.
According to the 2013 MarketLive etailing group survey for Holiday 2013, 50% of users planned to use their smartphones for purchases. In a RetailWire survey 41 percent of consumers now actively use mobile apps while shopping, nearly double the 21 percent that did so in a similar survey last year. Most consumers of all ages indicate that they have two to four shopping apps installed. How can you make one of them yours?
You’ve got some work to do to get that handy little hunk of software onto your customers’ mobile devices and get them engaging with it. Just 5% of non-gaming or entertainment apps see repeat usage within 30 days, according to Forrester Research.
So finding ways to make it something shoppers use regularly is vital to its success. Your first job:
Make sure it’s useful beyond shopping
There are the bedrock capabilities consumers are seeking when using mobile for shopping: the ability to check availability at a store before visiting, and buy or reserve for pick up, and check for sales and specials. But there is so much more creative marketers can do to add value and utility to apps and boost brand engagement.
Speaking of engagement, jewelry retailer and diamond specialist Helzberg Diamonds has created a specialized app that’s a manageable mix of content around its collection of engagement rings.
The highly-rated app is a comprehensive resource that’s focused on one topic, with links to the mobile commerce site woven in at appropriate junctures. Using the Proposal Pro, suitors can choose the date they plan to propose, browse rings, determine their beloved’s ring size, and read etiquette tips and advice about the ritual. They may even choose to have the app generate their proposal for them, or to rehearse using a built-in recorder.
Then Helzberg Diamonds brings it back to the sale by offering a $25 reward for making progress through the app.
Brand giant Charmin has created an app called Sit or Squat that will direct you to public restrooms which you can then rate and upload photos. “Gotta Go? Relax we got your back.” This is true utility with a splash of humor and perfect fodder for social sharing.
Even the most innovative apps need to be effectively promoted to ensure they don’t languish in obscurity.
Search engines aren’t likely to direct new customers to your app unless they already know — and type in — your brand name. Even then, searches will most likely lead them to your desktop or mobile web sites where they may never even realize you offer an app.
A few suggestions:
Promote your app consistently and prominently across other brand touchpoints, including on your mobile website, in email campaigns, and in-store at POS.
If someone has found your mobile site, they are a prime candidate for using your app. Make it easy for them.
Apple offers developers Smart App Banners which can detect whether users have already downloaded your app and will either direct them to download or open the app upon clicking.
Consider giving your app not only a prominent position on your web sites but also a preview of how it will improve the shopping experiences.
Design Within Reach, the innovative San Francisco-based furniture and accessories retailer, has an app available for the iPad through the iTunes store that was a 2013 Webby Award finalist.
The company effectively markets the app on its web site with an easy-to-watch video tutorial showcasing the functionality of the tool in action.
The video shows people zooming in on details of tastefully designed rooms, effortlessly flipping through various furniture styles, and learning more about the designers behind it all.
Social networking cannot be overemphasized
Reaching those who aren’t already visitors to your sites can be more of a challenge. Be aware that people don’t necessarily find apps the same way they find web sites.
Most people hear about apps through recommendations from friends and family, followed by “top-rated” recommendations in an app store, according to Forrester.
Since it’s likely to be awhile before your new app gains “top rated” status by reviewers, it’s best to focus on helping people discover and share your app through social media. Developing social app content and promoting it on social media sites is a good investment.
Here’s a way Nike has found to tap into their customer’s interest in sharing and comparing their athletic accomplishments through social networking sites.
The Nike + Running app not only allows users to track their workouts via GPS but also includes “leaderboards” where they can share times and see how their workouts over popular routes compare to those of their friends.
There’s even a feature where users can hear a cheer every time someone likes the run they’ve posted on Facebook.
The app is effective because it builds a community of runners who are actively engaged with it, then drives them to the main site where they can find multiple links to running gear shopping options.
According to Forrester’s Predictions 2014: US Retail eBusiness, consumers are leading merchants about changes they seek in mobile shopping and showrooming. Merchants who will flourish are willing to experiment with promotional activities and mobile functions that are specific to their product sets. Find the custom solutions customers are seeking and be willing to adjust your investments accordingly.
Try as many new things to promote your mobile capacities as your budget allows and do it now.