5 Ways to Engage Retail Customers on Mobile

By Shaun White, Senior Product Manager

As mobile becomes more entrenched in retail with payments and m-commerce, it seems only natural that brands are rushing to launch mobile apps to further engage with customers on their personal devices. But are mobile apps really an effective marketing tool?

Today’s app stores each host more than one million apps, but the average consumer uses only 26 or 27 of these per month, according to data from Nielsen. And a study by Compuware revealed that most apps that are able to make it past the download are used once or twice, then deleted.

Tips to Engage Retail Customers on Mobile - CashStar.com BlogThe fact is that many consumers have little use for branded apps in their day-to-day lives. Simply releasing and updating an app might entice your most loyal customers to engage, but your mobile strategy should focus on touching your customers in the moments when they are already reaching for their phones throughout the day. Forrester Research dubs these “mobile moments” in a new report released last month titled “Your Customers Will Not Download Your App” (subscription required).

Despite the ominous title of the report, our takeaway is that mobile apps aren’t necessarily bad – it’s just that most of them aren’t providing much value to consumers, and therefore are winding up sitting unopened on the mobile device (or worse, deleted).

If your mobile app simply exists to exist, here are five ways you can capitalize on those “mobile moments” using targeted offers and branded currency to revamp your app strategy and engage retail customers on mobile:

  1. Connect to the In-Store Experience – An omni-channel strategy is essential for retailers today, so your app should seamlessly merge the in-store experience with a customer’s mobile activity. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts recently revamped their branded mobile app to enhance the in-store experience for users. They found that speed was very important to their customers, so they designed a mobile loyalty app that is very fast both in-store and at the drive-thru. To follow their lead, your branded app should be customer-friendly and add something of value to the experience, rather than overcomplicate the checkout process.


  1. Localized Offers – Thanks to beacon and geofence technology, many retailers today have access to their customers’ location data, which they can use to promote localized offers. Retailers can target shoppers based on where they are, making offers and marketing messages more timely and relevant. For example, Forrester’s report found that Home Depot successfully leverages mobile by displaying relevant and contextual location information and delivering appropriate deals when the app is opened, taking factors like the user’s location, the weather and time of day into consideration.


  1. Social Media Marketing – Social media is where consumers are spending the most time on their mobile devices, so updating regularly, engaging with followers and investing in social advertising is essential if you want to be a part of more “mobile moments.” A report released last month from Mintel found that 35 percent of millennial woman say social media is one of the top influencers when making clothing purchases. The majority of these women are using Facebook daily, and a third visit Instagram daily. That means if a retailer doesn’t have a presence on these channels, they are missing an opportunity to bid for that customer’s attention.


  1. Mobile Coupons – In-the-moment offers are great branded currency tools that retailers can use to combat showrooming. If consumers have immediate access to promotions on their mobile device, versus a physical coupon they may have forgotten at home or lost, they are more likely to make a purchase. Retailers can also use customer data to segment users and target them with specific offers that will drive incremental spend and visits.


  1. Mobile Loyalty Programs – In order to encourage users to interact with your app, you’ll need to provide real incentive for them to do so, such as a mobile loyalty program. Taking your loyalty program mobile, or at least merging mobile loyalty with a physical loyalty card program, will make customers’ lives easier and offer you another method of collecting data on customer activity. Gift cards and loyalty rewards should seamlessly sync with third party apps, like Google Wallet, so customers can use them with ease.


With the rush to go mobile, it might seem like if you don’t have an app, you’re not in the game. But the truth is that many retailers are not using their apps effectively as marketing and customer engagement tools. An app should be in important part of your mobile strategy – but simply having one isn’t a strategy at all.

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