Amid the furious winds of change that the year 2020 ushered in, mobile shopping apps have become core to retailers’ digital operations.
Already surging in the last few years, apps have helped catapult the rise in mobile ecommerce. So much so that next year is expected to witness a huge milestone: mobile ecommerce sales are expected to be the majority, accounting for 54% of all ecommerce sales.
So what’s beneath the fast-paced rise of mobile ecommerce? And how can brands and retailers ensure even better online experiences through mobile?
Let’s hear from some of the specialists to get a better understanding of where the people behind the tech are heading.
“I think shopping apps are popular with consumers because they are a great way to experience a brand in an immersive digital setting,” said Steven Boal, CEO of Quotient, a consumer packaged goods tech provider.
“Much like a physical store where consumers can experience a shopping environment that’s created for physical discovery, shopping apps can have the same experiential effect, with the added value of convenience to experience it anytime and anywhere.
It’s providing consumers with the ability to hold greater power in their hands when it comes to their relationship with their favorite brands. Shopping apps enable them to find ways of saving money, comparing similar products, offer multiple ways of ording, when and where to pick up items, and increasingly more innovative ways to build brand loyalty from programs and reward schemes.
Phones have gotten smarter over the last decade and a half, and have increased in use, spreading across the world. But this year in particular has given mobile an extra shot of adrenaline as it catches up with desktop/laptop to soon be crowned the leading source of ecommerce.
As Boal pointed out; “With 81 percent of Americans having access to a smartphone, e-commerce experiences are very heavily tied to mobile devices.
“Companies and brands that offer shopping apps strive to make online experiences memorable and intuitive; and today, there’s also the added value of contact-free interactions that pave the end-to-end customer path.”
A more personal connection
With so much convenience channeled into one device, mobile apps have become key touchpoints for brands to reach out to their customers, build their brand, and strengthen loyalty.
According to Heidi Bullock, the CMO of Tealium, the California-based tech company, apps have meant that “convenience is increasingly driving the consumer experience.” She added that “Branded shopping apps that are designed to work on smartphones and tablets allow consumers to have the best mobile experience with the brand from anywhere, whether it’s on the couch or in-store.
“Rather than having to search through emails for past orders or search online for deals and coupons, shopping apps provide the convenience of a centralized hub for consumers’ relationship with a brand. Beyond just being convenient, it also allows consumers to shop in-the-moment, rather than stay on top of a growing shopping list.
“Busy parents, for example, can restock on diapers from their phone while they’re thinking about it, instead of trying to remember it and find time to go to the store later.”
In terms of the development of mobile apps, the best are ones that encompass the whole customer experience, constructing experiences on top of a broad foundation of customer data that is able to be updated in real time.
There are platforms that are capable of such complex integrations while enabling the ability to personalize experiences on every level, from the regional and linguistic level to the individual level. These platforms include Salesforce Commerce Cloud, a favorite of big-volume brands and retailers who rely heavily on personalization to build their name and strengthen brand loyalty.
“With the right customer data to fuel the shopping app,” added Heidi, “any brand can provide more personalized experiences that also make shopping simpler and more fun.”
Two core ingredients of a successful shopping app are easy of use and seamlessness.
“Shopping apps should be easy to navigate to discover and find the right products, have seamless payment and commerce flows,” said Rob Fagnani, head of business development at Formation, a tech company that specialises in personalisation. “And more than anything, tailor the experience as much as possible to the user – everything from the product assortment to individualized offers.
“While consumers want discounts and deals, these incentives only prove useful when the product is truly desired by the shopper. Nothing is a bigger turn off to a consumer than an irrelevant offer, which has the potential to damage perception and future engagement.”
You can’t force the brand onto consumers. Instead brands must fit naturally into the daily lives of their customers via relevant and easy-to-use apps, which don’t overcommunicate and bombard them with relentless information.
“I believe that shopping apps should feel like a natural extension of the way consumers think and act,” said Boal. “They should respond seamlessly to the way shoppers want to behave or interact with a brand, rather than trying to force a rigid or predetermined type of experience or behavior.
“Consumers don’t expect or want to deal with a steep learning curve. They want to download an app and instantly understand how it works — whether they’re looking for a particular item, browsing a weekly sales ad, or scrolling through the latest promotions. When those promotions are tied to the consumers’ behavior or previous interactions, you can create a warm, unique, memorable and valuable experience.”
Relevancy translates into personalization, as the very best apps realize that their customers are individuals and their wants, needs, and motivations for shopping are varied, and not always consistent. For example, many consumers pay particular attention to discounts and offers regardless of long shipping times, with savings being their primary motivation. For other customers, timing is everything, and they need to receive items within the next day or two.
Yet personalization without speed renders an app irrelevant, given that consumers barely wait 3 seconds for a website to load. And so apps that are fast on their feet is a great metric to analyze how good, or effective, an app is.
One of the biggest strengths of Salesforce Commerce Cloud is its seamless ability to scale, ensuring that brands who are building for huge increases in traffic and online sales don’t need to worry about laggy site speed.
“Evolving the experience over time so that it is personalized and anticipates the user’s next need is a key component to mobile app success,” said Britt Mills, senior director of customer experience for Mobiquity.
“An app is a great place to house a loyalty program, and we are seeing that most users are shifting from a points- and discount-based program to one that offers experience benefits — things like seamless ordering, early access, personalized and little to no effort transactions.
“Three years ago, a success metric for a retail-based app was time-in-app. Now, the goal is to make it as quick and easy as possible and decreasing time-in-app for conversion is key.”
The shopping app of the future
Nothing remains the same for long – particularly in ecommerce. The youthful industry runs wild into the frontiers of creativity, responding to shifting consumer behavior and ever sophisticated technological development.
Shopping apps, likewise, will carry on transforming, molded by changes in behavior and advancements in tech. “While some customers are comfortable going to physical shops now, many brands need to continue maintaining and growing their physical and digital storefronts for the months and years to come,” said Leena Iyar, chief brand officer at Moxtra.
“The rapid transition to digital experiences,” continued Leena, “has accelerated the trend we already saw coming. Consumers are likely to continue using a blend of in-store and digital solutions even when the world returns to normal.
“Moving forward, retailers should explore ways to make their digital solutions blend with in-store. Offering customers unique ways to shop, pay and engage through a mobile app while they are in-store will ensure brands maintain their digital presence and customer engagement as they look to the future.”
The very best of the best integrate their digital experiences with their physical experiences; shopping apps that connect the customer to the brand using the phone and store.
And with more and more brands developing their own mobile apps, the space is becoming crowded, with brands struggling to put it head above the others. With so many choices, how are consumers going to sort through them and choose their favored ones? One of the key ingredients for future apps is more data-driven experiences that are tailor-made for each individual customer.
No longer enough to just advertise products, brands will have to pursue and engage with potential customers via individual marketing, customized user experiences on each app.
“You can see the beginning of this already taking place with the integration of social media and marketplaces,” said Channable CEO Rob Van Nuenen, “such as Facebook and Instagram, and with the likes of TikTok and YouTube following suit. A seamlessly-tailored online experience between social and business is the next step in a world tailored to each individual.”