The retail mobile app isn’t a fad. It’s an evolving medium of communication between the consumer and the store.
Usage of these apps isn’t likely to decrease as time goes on. Instead, we’re likely to see their use increase and even replace some store services such as checking out or asking an assistant for help. An effective retail mobile app may be designed to advertise, but it must also engage the customer enough to guide them through the sales journey: from brand awareness to purchase.
The majority of Internet traffic is mobile, with most of that activity focused on apps. Indeed, about 85% of the time that users spend on mobile is spent on apps. Much of users’ app time is spent making their lives more convenient, whether they’re looking for a place to eat or picking up groceries on the way home. Apps that travel with the consumer serve this need for convenience and will continue to be in demand for some time to come. To keep base with users’ expectations, retail mobile apps have shifted from simple advertising platforms to functional programs designed to assist consumers in their everyday lives.
When Retail Mobile Apps Meet Brick-and-Mortar, Life Gets Easier
Anyone who has been to an IKEA knows that it can be a stressful situation. The “IKEA breakup” became a sitcom staple in the early 2000s because of it. IKEA is a large store with a lot to offer, which can be intimidating for some. However, IKEA has begun offering a retail consumer app to help the consumer in-store.
IKEA offers three apps; a store app, a catalog app, and a design app called Place. These apps allow users to view inventories and even do some augmented reality (AR) design planning. However, depending on the purchase medium, each app’s functionality changes. The store app works like a map inside of IKEA locations, guiding shoppers to items they’ve placed on their list. Through the catalog app and a smartphone camera, users can view furniture like it would look in their living room through a clever AR overlay. Finally, Place allows users to get creative—planning out rooms with 360 visuals, building room packages—with significant upsell opportunity for the retailer. IKEA’s three-part app strategy was successful because:
- It blurred the line between digital and physical: IKEA doesn’t ignore brick-and-mortar locations. Instead, it works to blend the digital and physical spaces into one. Consumers find this appealing as it allows them to continue brick-and-mortar shopping while still being able to turn to their mobile device for help. They can use the app to pull up directions inside the store or even review inventories and place items on hold.
- It solved a common problem: IKEA customers often find themselves overwhelmed in the store, which is why the store based app allows them to plan their visit. They were able to use the mobile app to guide them while they were in the shopping aisle, making their phone their in-store map.
- It took advantage of new tech: IKEA used AR in the development of their catalog app. The design allowed users to view how a piece of furniture would look in their space—through their phone’s camera. This made the app an instant hit when it came out in 2016.
IKEA was able to use a retail mobile app to offer a better customer experience in-store, without losing out to online sales. Instead, they created a fully immersive platform that excited consumers. Another thing that IKEA did as part of their app program was to integrate their rewards programs into the app, to make life even easier for their customers.
Rewards Program Points Are Easier to Collect on Retail Mobile Apps
Consumers haven’t stopped participating in mobile rewards programs; they’ve just changed how they participate. Nearly one-third of consumers will stop participating in a rewards program if it doesn’t have a smartphone app. A smartphone based program for rewards offers the following benefits over a card-based one:
- Timely notifications: A retail rewards app can be used to notify a consumer when they’ve entered a location, reminding them they have the app.
- Ease of use: About 37% of consumers will take part in a rewards program if it’s easy to understand. Consumers don’t want to have to do a lot to collect rewards, which is why mobile app check-ins and UPC scanning can simplify the process.
- Fast redemption: A consumer using a smartphone can collect and redeem their points in one space, making it easy to keep track of and use.
Retail mobile apps are ideal for managing rewards programs, both for the customer and for the store. It’s a fast, easy way to keep track of points and offer incentives to customers. As this is the case, the use of retail mobile apps to maintain these programs is only going to become more common.
The Retail Mobile App: More Than Just Convenience
Consumers are embracing mobile apps for more than just their entertainment value. These apps are becoming part of their daily lives, guiding them as they work, exercise, schedule appointments, and shop. The average consumer touches their phone 2,500 times per day which tells us that consumers are dependent on their phones for information.
The average consumer touches their phone 2,500 times per day
Retail mobile apps are by no means a trend. They’re evolving into something that merges both convenience and entertainment. They’re already managing rewards program processes of the past and they will continue to take on more functional responsibilities as time progresses. Shopping apps like Shopkick provide a simplified shopping experience, while allowing users to earn rewards. They also incorporate all the conveniences that consumers demand, including easier rewards tracking, geo-locating options, and even serving as in-store assistants. By making life easier for consumers, retail mobile apps have set a new standard for brick-and-mortar shopping.
Image courtesy Dean Drobot.