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Why retailers need to improve their app experience for customers

Online retail sales in the UK are estimated to have reached £52.25bn by the end of 2015, this is a 16.2 per cent increase on 2014, which will equal 15.2 per cent of all retail sales in the UK.

It’s clear that consumers are moving online, and increasingly they want to stay connected whilst on the move. As a result, optimising mobile channels has become a necessity for brands that are trying to reach consumers that now expect an omni-channel experience, or they risk losing them to competitors with a more flexible service.

A new report launched this month by Apadmi looking into how 1,000 UK Smartphone shoppers are using retail apps, found that a sizeable 71 per cent think there is still a gap in the market for improved apps in this sector.

Mobile apps, which started off initially as a trend for many retailers, have rapidly turned into an essential part of any retailer’s strategy when it comes to offering the omni-channel experience that consumers are becoming accustomed to. But despite many retailers already using this channel, are they really getting it right? Apadmi’s Retail App Report was commissioned to explore whether retail apps and technologies are really hitting the mark with consumers and offer retailers tips for providing the best mobile app experience for their customers, as well as to provide insight for those that are interested in how a mobile app might fit into their future business plans.

Smooth functionality is crucial

It would appear that getting an app wrong can be more detrimental to a brand than not having one at all. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of consumers would think less of a retailer if its mobile app was poorly designed and stated they would actually go shopping elsewhere.

The biggest bugbear for consumers is when a retail app is slow and unresponsive; and over 60 per cent of consumers said they would delete an app if they ran into this issue. On top of this, over half of consumers find retail mobile apps have poor functionality generally, with one in five (21 per cent) of consumers finding them too slow, and almost half (43 per cent) stating they found them to have difficult payment methods.

For retailers that have invested in this technology; this is concerning. It’s clear that in order to keep consumers engaged with an app after the initial download, it has to be of high quality. The fact that almost half of consumers are finding payment methods through mobile apps an issue needs to be addressed promptly by retailers. Otherwise they risk not only losing customers that might delete the app due to this difficulty, but missing out on conversions from those that have the app but struggle to purchase through it.

Taking the time to test an app throughout the design stages to make sure its user experience is smooth is the best way for retailers to keep on top of any problems. These days, consumers won’t hesitate to delete an app in order to make room on their mobile devices; and this needs to be front of mind for brands throughout the design process so that they create an app that consumers value and therefore remain engaged with.

Personalisation is key

It is evident from the research that personalisation is crucial to the success of mobile apps for retailers. More and more consumers want to use apps that know their personal shopping preferences and target them appropriately. If an app fails to personalise the shopping experience, consumers are likely to switch off to marketing messages or worse, delete the app altogether.

In fact, 40 per cent of consumers said they would delete an app if it sent them lots of promotional messages that weren’t relevant to them. Over two thirds (67 per cent) said they want messages and deals personalised to their preferences, and 38 per cent said they would be happy for an app to recommend similar products to the ones they have already bought.

There is a big market for brands on mobile, and by having a personalised approach retailers are more likely to build lasting relationships with consumers. Tracking the products and services that individual customers regularly look at and then offering exclusive deals on these items, is one of the best ways to make a customer feel like their specific needs are being met. For this, collecting customer data is crucial.

Loyalty is important on mobile too

For the omni-channel experience that consumers are looking for from retailers, and as a way of building in a personalised approach, integrating a loyalty scheme into a mobile app is a good idea. By collecting loyalty points on a mobile phone, consumers will be able to incur them both in store and online through the app, and 80 per cent of consumers say they would be happy to do this.

Adopting this technology into a retail app will also provide an ideal opportunity for collecting valuable customer data both in store and online. For digital marketing strategies, in particular, this will help brands build a more personalised and targeted strategy, as what consumers buy instore can be correlated with what they purchase and browse in the app – and the research suggests this personalised approach is what consumers want.

Loyalty schemes are one of the easiest ways to add value to an app as many brands have them set up in store already, and a huge 39 per cent of consumers would download a retail app if it offered this kind of incentive.

Planning is key to success

With new technologies such as Apple Pay emerging all the time, mobile is going to keep growing in importance for retailers as consumers continue to embrace these developments. This will, however, mean that retailers need to plan and take important steps to keep up.

Difficulty arises, however, when brands are adopting technology that they need to not only ensure is seamless for their customers, but also offers consistency in terms of branding. It will be particularly difficult for retailers when it comes to new payment methods as these will also need to be streamlined so that consumers feel comfortable when parting with their bank details on a new platform. As the research discovered, consumers found some checkout processes were difficult to navigate on their mobile apps, so it’s an area that retailers need to pay special attention to in order to maximise the ROI that these channels can bring.

With so many consumers using retail apps (85 per cent) it’s important that retail companies have an app that stands up to the brand’s reputation and contributes to its success. If retail companies don’t invest in quality mobile apps, for example they have a slow app or it is not innovative in its approach, they’re missing out on countless opportunities to interact with their customers and drive sales.

So, by digitalising the physical shopping experience, effectively embracing ecommerce and creating a seamless omni-channel strategy, retailers are highly likely to survive and succeed. Those that don’t invest in their mobile app strategy may lose out more than they may think.

Matt Hunt, CEO of Apadmi Enterprise, the enterprise app development division of Apadmi

Image Credit: Slavoljub Pantelic / Shutterstock