Maximising mobile - why apps are no longer optional in retail

Five benefits which make mobile apps an essential channel for retailers

Being able to gather the likes of John Lewis, Decathlon and Very Group in a room to hear how strong app experiences are driving their businesses forward was just as interesting and useful as you’d expect. Perhaps more surprising was the unanimous message of value which is making apps an integral part of the retail experience.

The proliferation of mobile continues to grow and with the number of apps on the average smartphone user’s device at 80, while only 8 of those are being used regularly, competition for eyeballs is rife. But once you get the eyeballs, it seems it’s benefits abound.

Here are five key takeaways.

1. In store and online - apps can do multiple jobs

The danger of expecting too much from your mobile app can often be more to do with not being clear about its objective, rather than your digital product falling short.

“I have several Sainsbury’s apps and I’m OK with that,” says Monica Tailor, global director at McCann. “Whether it’s loyalty or rewards or shopping, I don’t mind having to open different apps to carry out different tasks, as long as I’m clear about where I go for what and when I do, it does a good job.

So an all-singing super app doesn’t have to be the answer, as long as the job being done for the customer is clear. Another problem that can be tricky to solve is deciding whether your app is supporting the in-store or online experience.

For global sport retailer Decathlon, its first foray into the app world was only about enhancing the in-store experience, but that has had to evolve. 

Jéssica Llarena, mobile app product owner at Decathlon says: “Our app is the answer to customer trends - at first this was to enhance in-store experience but it has become a mobile ecommerce experience to be with the customer all the time. And we are seeing the benefits of that.”

Jessica Decathlon Image

2. Apps can drive core revenue and support new behaviours

While the starting point should always be to deliver and grow existing revenue, apps can also be used to support and explore new opportunities.

Having created a digital product which is supporting businesses in 24 different markets, Decathlon’s UK app customers are delivering three times more revenue than non-app customers and have a retention rate of 28%, compared to 9% on the web.

Jessica continues: “In order to meet customer needs we joined the circular economy and integrated our second life products as well as rentals, all while being totally aligned to our purpose which is making sport accessible to many. Our app is helping us to meet customers’ needs and be where our customers are.”

3. Personalise and push, keep customers informed while letting them know you know who they are

Customers are usually logged in within an app experience, so why not make the app unique to them. There’s a real opportunity to be as relevant as possible and offer more than a web experience.

Muktar Mahama, head of digital product at The Very Group says: “We often talk about giving customers a reason not to get rid of our app when their phone is telling them their storage is full. We need to give them more - remember their preferences, allow them to jump back in from where they left off and create meaningful recommendations.

“We also need to engage, and push notifications are great when done well, but they’re rarely done well. The first is trigger - what behaviours do you have that determine what notifications you get."

"The second is service-based notifications, which is returns, delivery and payment. Lastly it’s trading and CRM which we’re already doing but we’re refining this process to make it a lot more relevant - not just sending promotions for the sake of it but being targeted in terms of customer and timing.”

Muktar Very Group image

4. Create the right stage for customers to perform

Apps give retailers the advantage of being able to learn from existing behaviours and create better personalised experiences which help to make app customers more valuable. But you also have to be clear about what both your brand and your customers look like in-app.

“You need to create a clear articulation of why you have an app and how it makes money,” says customer apps lead at John Lewis, Adrian Evans.

“Cross disciplinary teams are essential to bring that strategy to life. And then finally It takes a village to create an app. You have to get your whole organisation behind you - tech teams, marketing teams (nobody will download it if they don’t know about it) and stores if you’ve got them. You have to bring the whole organisation to bear.”

“We have an app segmentation at John Lewis where we’re able to point to any customer in the database and say whether they are one of six types of value customers for us and therefore are they a customer we want to retain in the experience or require in the experience."

Adrian Evans of John Lewis Image

5. Mobile apps equals relationships

The final point is a simple but extremely important one and is simply that an effective mobile application unlocks value and creates better customer relationships.

“We have our most loyal and best customers in the app,” continues Adrian. “About 50 percent of the total app base is the top two most valuable segments for us. About half the people in the app have already looked at the app that day so we’re driving engagement.

“But critically it’s the value. So we think a customer who has the app is about 30 percent more valuable than a customer who doesn’t and that’s critical to getting our business on board with what we’re trying to do.”

Watch the full presentation and panel Q&A below for full insights.

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And if you need help maximising mobile for your business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.

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