Last year we released our Retail App Report 2017: Using Apps to Ensure Business Success – and it’s time for an update.
How has the retail industry progressed over the last 18 months? Massively. Are retail mobile apps still providing value to customers? More than ever.
Let’s re-cap a few of our key findings from our retail report last year:
- First, customers wanted retailers to make better use of technology in-store. While 46% wanted stores to offer free wi-fi to allow their apps to sync and update with the latest offers, 26% wanted an app that lets them make payments so they can skip queues
- Second, people love emerging tech – 26% of consumers wanted to see retailers invest more in their apps, particularly by adopting AI to improve their shopping experiences, while 29% believe AR and VR platforms should be the focus of their investment
- Thirdly, consumers believe the top three things that can improve retail mobile apps are better incentives/loyalty schemes, rewards for using the apps and simply better customer service
1. How has in-store tech changed?
Where in-store tech is concerned, Amazon set the tone with their store that doesn’t require physical payment or queuing – customers simply pick their items and pay through their app. Then in January, JD launched 7Fresh, a fresh food grocery store with cutting-edge technology on every corner.
Magic mirrors that sense when customers pick up items, automatically displaying information about its origin, and plans for smart shopping carts that follow customers through the aisles, while people can pay for their goods via mobile with facial-recognition.
One retail sector where in-store tech seems to be having a growing impact is fashion and beauty. Big brands like Topshop and Zara are currently using AR screens that allow customers to try on clothes without having to go to the changing rooms, while Sephora’s Virtual Artist created by Modiface uses facial scans to map the lips and eyes, allowing consumers to try on different lip colors, eyeshadows and false lash styles at the counter.
2. Are we seeing more emergent tech?
Immersive technologies were already creeping into the expectations of customers 18 months ago – and the market listened, as we’ve seen a number of large retailers integrate this tech into their operations.
IKEA’s app allows users to try furniture before they buy it, with an AR overlay that maps items to the dimensions of their home. Gap also announced last year that they’re building virtual dressing rooms so users can try on clothes at home and purchase via the app.
Swarovski then launched a VR shopping app in conjunction with Mastercard for their home décor line, immersing customers in a virtual, beautifully decorated home where they can make in-app purchases.
The third area we’re seeing the most excitement and adoption from retailers is voice technology. Voice is a totally new platform for retailers and a way of entering the mobile marketplace that creates a truly branded experience that engages directly with customers.
Ocado recognised how vital convenience was to the buying journey of their audience, so in June last year, they were the first UK supermarket to launch a voice-controlled skill for Alexa. You can add things to your basket as and when you run out whilst in the kitchen, Ocado will automatically re-order the same item type last bought, and you can process your orders via voice or review your basket on a screen device first – whatever’s the most convenient for the user.
3. Improving retail mobile apps – Argos and the Co-op
A recent report by Criteo found that mobile sales now represent the majority (two-thirds) of total e-commerce for retailers with successful shopping apps. They also found conversion rates to be higher on apps – about 3x greater than on the mobile web.
The most important thing about using any of this technology though, is that it meets the customer’s needs – otherwise it becomes an expensive, short-lived gimmick. For example, Argos found they were wasting a lot of call centre resource dealing with simple account management tasks from their Argos Card holders.
They decided to empower their customers by developing the My Argos Card app, with an array of simple yet intuitive features. The app has had 1m+ downloads, has 500,000+ active monthly users, and is the biggest digital payment channel for the My Argos Card, with 30,000-40,000 new downloads every month.
Another great example is the Co-op’s digital membership card pilot. They have over 4 million members in their scheme, but following an internal report, they found that many of them wanted a better way of managing their membership via a mobile solution.
We helped them develop a pilot mobile solution of a digital card that could be stored on smartphones, with the ability for members to access their loyalty scheme benefits and view their transaction history all in one place. Having completed the trial period successfully, they’re now considering what other features they could include to enhance a fully-launched app in the near future.