The essence of a successful retail app

What we’ve learned from creating a 3.9m download app with Co-op and why technology is at its most powerful when it’s rooted in your business purpose.

Many big retail brands have long left the station aboard the mobile app train, aiming to take advantage of the seamless customer journeys, owned brand experiences and loyalty opportunities a great app can deliver.

But in the rush to get on board, it’s easy to lose sight of the original destination or indeed discover you might not be stopping at all the right stations.

Railway metaphors notwithstanding, the need to keep your mobile strategy on track has never been more important in the world of retail. Just ask Google. Given that 30 percent of all online shopping purchases now happen on mobile phones, the stakes have never been higher for retailers.

This article covers what Apadmi has learned from working with one of the UK’s leading supermarkets in the Co-op to create its mobile app, and aims to provide some insight into the essence of how a great digital product can be a big part of making customers happier and businesses better.

Omnichannel is everywhere, but be specific

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Everyone’s talking about omnichannel, and rightly so. But the ability to enable and reach customers through every channel shouldn’t mean having a presence just for the sake of it.

Every platform has a specific job to do and the danger of mobile apps is they can be good at solving several problems. So being clear about what it should and shouldn’t be doing is absolutely the right place to start.

For Co-op it was loyalty and from its dividend stamps providing a share of profits in the 1950s to the membership offers of today, this wasn’t a new challenge.

Indeed, the evolution of loyalty from the plastic cards of 5-10 years ago to today’s native apps means digitisation has put a more efficient, more responsive, more personal and ultimately more valuable proposition in customers’ pockets.

What does value look like?

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The immediate value comes from volume and the ability to reach huge numbers of customers with a clear level of personalisation. The Co-op app has been installed 3.9 million times, has 1.3 million monthly active users and delivers personalised weekly offers to 500,000 users.

The visibility of the product has been supported by Apadmi’s Performance team, ensuring the app has the right presence in the main app stores and also taking advantage of functionality like in-App Events to get promoted on the App Store homepage.

Co-op’s head of product Adam Hopwood says: “In-app events align closely with Co-op’s wider marketing campaigns. You might have seen co-op’s community fridges initiative and we set up an in-app event to promote this, which was selected by Apple to be featured on the main carousel on the App Store homepage.

“Users get a consistent journey of seeing these campaigns from every touchpoint. We’ve implemented several in-app events throughout the year - resulting in more than a million impressions and thousands of downloads.”

However, value doesn’t come from volume alone. Keeping customers repeatedly engaged is key and with the right content and offers, retailers are experiencing opt-in rates for in-app push notifications of up to 70 per cent.

Co-op’s click-rate for in-app coupon messages has reached an impressive 30 per cent, which has led to not only a 12 percent increase in transaction frequency, but also a 1.5-3 times increase in transactional value.

Create habit and be useful

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At the heart of the Co-op app are member offers. Each Monday, Co-op provides users with eight personalised offers and customers can choose up to two at a time to use in store.

Having tried a variety of approaches, routine was the best method for increasing both usage and retention. 

The weekly event creates a habit and uses the simple approach of triggers (store signage, push notifications, weather), routine (delivered at the same time on the day every week) and reward (which varies and is always relevant).

It’s simple, isn’t based on pure algorithm with some manual massaging of offers and genuinely rewards loyalty with half the offers being based on what customers regularly buy. And customers like it. One review said:  “I get happy when I see the notification. It’s a nice start to the week and it cheers you up a bit.”

“Offers wouldn’t work if people didn’t like using it,” continues Hopwood. “Customer satisfaction is always the bedrock of any retention strategy. In the attention economy, everyone is vying for space in our customers’ heads.

“We’re not in the business of monetising attention - we’re in the business of monetising behaviour. Getting the right time and right place to engage members is paramount to our success. The biggest risk to our proposition is that they disengage. We’re not the most important thing in our customers’ lives and that’s ok.”

Maintaining momentum

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An essential part of a successful app is also about evolving the product as technology allows and as customer and business needs change. Having an app which is doing a great job of retention keeps existing customers happy, but what about bringing in new ones?

Traditional marketing still has a job to do in growing member penetration and introductory offers can be costly and often outside the control of a product team. It can also be hard to demonstrate value before customers start using it regularly, which is all the more reason to maximise the reach within app stores and make the most of other functionality, such as early-bird tickets to events and member prices.

The combination of value and utility delivered in a simple, frictionless way is the hallmark of any great retail app. But the real test comes if that can also be aligned with the broader purpose of the business. Ultimately Co-op is offering a different approach and getting customers on board means providing a great experience, but also educating about why they should be involved for the long term.

Adam concludes: “We recognise, most of our members see us first and foremost as a loyalty scheme and the direct value they get in their basket. And that’s OK.

“The ultimate aim is that this proposition doesn’t just drive our bottom line, but also takes shoppers on a journey towards understanding us as a Co-operative. Being loyal to our purpose and our reason for being is the ultimate form of loyalty which stands the test of time.”

If you’d like to talk more about how digital products might be able to help your business, we’d love to hear from you.

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