Building customer loyalty with m-commerce apps
Retail and online service providers in both the B2C and B2B markets are using mobile commerce apps to open attractive opportunities to increase their revenues, reach new audiences, and build long-term customer loyalty.
As performance marketer «Criteo» showed in its latest Mobile Commerce Report 2016, not only are the conversion rates within m-commerce apps many times higher than on mobile-optimized websites, but customers' rate of return is higher and their baskets are fuller.
Successful mobile commerce apps serve several business and marketing goals at a time:
- Longterm customer loyalty: m-commerce Apps are replacing traditional plastic, club, or stamp cards with retailers. Customers appreciate no longer having to keep track of so many cards and enjoy easy access to the status of the loyalty account and their receipts. Once the app has been installed on their device, it can become a constant companion and exponentially increase the chances that the provider will become the customers' preferred place to shop.
- Increased sales: by optimizing your offerings to a mobile UI, you're inviting mobile users to browse your products and special deals whenever and wherever they have time. They can evaluate and compare products, mark them as their favorites, and readily put them into their shopping carts. Even if they eventually complete the purchase on their PC or even in the store, the mobile app has played a decisive role in the purchasing process.
- Marketing & promotions: m-commerce apps are very useful for drawing attention to promotions and other special deals, with a well-managed news feed, for example. Or you can send push messages to select target groups based on demographic criteria, geolocation data, or user behavior. It is important, though, that the messages be relevant to the users, otherwise they will quickly switch off the push notifications.
- Store marketing with beacons: beacons provide interesting options for in-store promotions. Customers can be given an individual greeting and told about promotions that they are likely to find interesting. Or they find their current position on the store map so that they quickly orient themselves. The applications of beacons are massive, but retailers have yet to begin taking advantage of them, at least here in Switzerland.
- Cost savings thanks to self-checkout: in addition to offering a wide range of payment options within the app, m-commerce apps also often integrate own payment options for use at the POS checkout. Scan and checkout models for use at in-store POS are becoming more important: customers scan their purchases with the app and then check out either directly within the app or at a special register just for that purpose.
The investment in a native mobile commerce app will therefore pay off for retailers and B2B shops alike. It is important to take clever advantage of every appropriate potential.
Field force apps to increase the efficiency of your outside sales team
There is probably no greater application for mobile digitalization than offering support services to staff, especially those in outside sales and service.
Depending on your industry and the size of your company, a wide range of options are available, although they all have something in common. Cleverly designed solutions have the potential to increase employee efficiency and performance over the long term.
Exemplary applications in various industries include:
- Support app for insurance agents: Traditionally insurance agents have used (more or less CI compliant) PowerPoint presentations to make their pitch to customers. The drawback: customer data has to first be pre-printed from a system, the presentations are static, and customer requests must be recorded on paper, with the offer only available later. A tablet app lets agents access customer data directly, record customer requests in real time, and even generate a package on the spot.
- Mobile & augmented reality for service technicians: Modern service technicians take much more than a toolbox with them when they head out on a job. They have access to customer and product data via a mobile app, they can pull up and complete service checklists, look up manuals and maintenance instructions as required, or even order replacement parts on the spot. If the unit being repaired is already networked, the mobile app can also deliver analytical data and service instructions. Ultra-modern apps even offer augmented reality: sensors and the device camera are used to inspect the equipment and the app returns real-time information on faults and required maintenance steps.
- Clienteling apps for sales staff: retail stores are increasingly using mobile POS systems. Actual clienteling apps are much more than just mobile POS systems: sales staff get access to customer data and history for use in their work. They get detailed product presentations on their tablets and real-time access to inventory levels and delivery times. Feedback from the sales pitch can be entered directly into the system. The system delivers interesting analytics that retailers can use for the continuous improvement of their sales processes.
- Scheduling and training of decentralized sales teams: For companies with a decentralized team, such as event staff, mobile applications offer multiple advantages: scheduling can be done on the go and training materials can be distributed with the tap of a button. The chat feature lets the crew get in touch with colleagues or HQ in a snap. And, at the end of the day, time reports and sales figures can be entered directly into the company's back-end system.
These are just some examples of possible uses of field force apps. The possibilities are almost unlimited and are available for every industry and company.
If a company is deciding on an app, it first needs to decide whether to make it or buy it. There are now a tremendous number of standard products out there that cover basic needs such as chat/messaging, document sharing, or time tracking, and a number of services offer apps tailored to specific business sectors. Larger companies, however, are usually better served by creating their own in-house app which would cover exactly the applications they require while optimally integrating with the company's systems.
Mobile services for customers, partners, and stakeholders
Companies in sectors as divergent as insurance companies, banks, hotels, utilities, and transport providers have long recognized that digital access to their services is not only more convenient for their customers, partners, and stakeholders, but they also represent a massive potential for savings for the company through greater efficiency. Optimizing the company website for mobile devices has become a must, especially since 42% of all Swiss use the internet on their smartphones or tablets.
Service providers can, however, create a competitive advantage by offering their own app. As long as they leave nothing to be desired when it comes to functionality, user-friendliness, and performance, such apps are an ideal entry point to services such as e-banking, reservation systems, customer service, media rooms, and much more. The trend is moving towards apps' offering other additional services along with the core functions. They provide customers with added value at no extra charge and have a positive effect on corporate image. Some examples: tax calculators from banks, emergency guides and prevention advice from insurance companies, or recipes from food makers.
Of course, it also takes effort to promote your own app (see our blog post: «How can I influence the Success of my App?»). Once you have found your way onto the customer's device screen, you might enjoy «preferred brand» status, at least as long as the customer is satisfied with the app and what it offers.
In addition to offering access to your own products, services or attractive extras, native apps also offer a number of options for targeted promotions and enable to raise customer engagement with your brand:
- Targeted push marketing: share the latest news, push promotions, and make custom offers to all users of your app or to target groups based on user preferences and behaviour or demographic criterias.
- In-app messaging: a little more discreet than push notifications, in-app messages can be placed or displayed depending on given user behaviors within the app. For example: expiry reminders of promotions on client's watch list.
- Message centers: your app is an ideal platform to communicate news about the company and its offers. Since app users are mostly known because they will have logged in, you can also target these messages to specific audiences.
- Chat: an increasing number of companies are using their apps to offer their customers a chance to get in touch directly with support staff. It is likely that some of these queries will be handled by bots in the future.
- Tracking and analysis: The free analytics from Apple and Google measure both the number of app downloads as well as user behavior within the app. Fee-based analytics platforms can also be used to record in detail what individual users do within the app. This data can then be fed into your CRM and allow you to make valuable conclusions about the effectiveness of your marketing measures.
Internet of things: competitive advantages thanks to networked products
Manufacturers of home systems and electronics realized even before Apple's HomeKit came out that they could increase the attractiveness of their products by joining the internet of things and offering apps to control, monitor, and analyze what's going on in the home, thus opening up new market potential.
For example, heating, lighting, roller shutters, and even coffee machines and other home electronics devices can all be connected to the internet now. This offers users greater convenience and gives manufacturers a competitive advantage over providers of conventional products.
Many product makers have been developing their own apps for just this purpose. Apple's HomeKit allows even manufacturers without big budgets to make their products controllable via the Apple «Home» app. All they need to is integrate a certified Apple chip into their product. HomeKit has become considerably more attractive since the release of iOS 10, it is now directly accessible from the iOS lock screen and is a part of the Control Center. The pre-installed «Home» app comes in the usual Apple quality and Apple TVs become HomeKit hubs for remote access.