Senior Marketing Manager
It seems that retailers still have a long way to go to offer the mobile experiences that their customers expect.
According to a February 2016 survey by MarketingCharts, based on 100,000 online shoppers, people are still facing a myriad of issues when it comes to mobile shopping. The survey found that:
- 33% of respondents find retail mobile sites have serious usability issues (have to enlarge in order to click the right item on the page)
- 25% said that page load speed and site performance were big issues
- 21% claim they have to access the full site in order to access what they are looking for
Apart from data security concerns, the remaining problems cited – small text, friction at checkout, small pictures, lack of product information – all center around the same thing: user experience.
In the retail landscape, experience is arguably the most important aspect of attracting and retaining customers. Consequently, usability issues are a big barrier to success, particularly as more customers expect retailers to offer a seamless experience on mobile.
Addressing User Experience Issues Through Apps
While mobile websites can and do offer great experiences when executed correctly, the tide is shifting toward native mobile app experiences.
A survey done by Retail Me Not shows that many shoppers prefer mobile apps because they offer a much better experience than mobile sites do. Respondents noted that in comparison to mobile sites, retail apps:
- Are more convenient (63%)
- Are faster (57%)
- Make the experience better by storing user settings (40%)
- Offer better benefits and rewards (31%)
Furthermore, the highly lucrative millennial market is also showing their preference for apps, due mainly to their desire for interesting and interactive experiences. A survey published by Forbes shows that 54% of millennials like retail apps because the experience is better than mobile sites, and 27% use the apps to take advantage of exclusive offers, discounts, and rewards. With a demographic like millennials, who value experience very highly, apps are proving an effective medium for retail brands trying to reach them.
Better Experiences = Better ROI
Providing a better experience doesn’t just benefit shoppers either; apps are proving increasingly lucrative for retailers who have been able to effectively penetrate the market.
Apps now generate about half of all mobile sales for those retailers that have made their app experience a priority. Additionally, apps are driving more in-store visits and also resulting in higher-value baskets than their web counterparts, according to a report by App Annie. Based on the findings of the report, App Annie concludes that “mobile apps are a critical platform for retailers to continue to invest in to engage their most loyal customers, drive stronger sales, and deliver a more frictionless experience than the web.”
How To Provide The Experience Your Customers Want
Mobile apps should first and foremost focus on your customer. They should add value, eliminate friction points, and generally make the shopping experience better. Version 1 of your retail app should be developed with the following considerations in mind:
- Provide a personalized experience
- Use recommendation engines to offer relevant product suggestions to shoppers
- Integrate loyalty programs to reward customers and encourage more purchases
- Help your customers save money with coupons, promotions, and special offers
- Streamline payments to eliminate friction points in the path to purchase
- Add features and functionality aimed at improving the in-store experience
Once you begin to collect user data from shoppers who are active on the app, you can continue to improve and refine later iterations of the app based on your users’ preferences and behaviour. Setting KPIs for your app will allow you to collect, analyze, and act upon data to guide the direction of later product versions.
With consumers demanding more from their shopping experiences and the growth in retail app usage, apps are becoming an integral part of retailers’ omni-channel strategies. Companies need to begin with their users in mind, focusing on providing an experience that adds values, eliminates friction, and truly engages customers.