Posted by Nicole Hambleton / Article, mCommerce & eCommerce, Mobile /

Mobile app development is growing, as is mCommerce but most people are questioning what the best way is to drive a positive ROI on their investment.

A growing number of retailers / restaurants / entertainment venues have found that their mobile apps are instrumental in converting customers to purchase from their store, either online or shopfront. A mobile app has the advantage of marketing to a tangible person, not just an online persona like social media alone. An app user can generate brand loyalty and demonstrate an emotional investment in the brand if it’s done right.

“80% of iOS and Android usage is spent on apps, leaving only 20% on browser activities.” (Flurry Analytics Comscore)

Features of the online experience for conversion

Geolocators: This feature can be built into apps to prompt to take advantage of specials and offers when they are in store or near the store. The app user might get a message about a sale or special or maybe a loyalty bonus for being a good customer. This works for retailers right through to food outlets.

Loyalty Offers: Getting repeat business and referral business can entice users to your store. The app can be programmed to update it’s priority customers when items go on sale or offer discounts only for app users. Similar to email newsletters but in a more targeted way. Giving them the chance to participate in online surveys, fun games or offering eVouchers.

Wish List: The ability to create a shopping or wish list in the app that you can then redeem in store. This creates excitement, a need in the customer that they will want to fulfil. The alerts can be programmed to remind people when something in their wish list goes on special offer.

Store Mapping: For larger stores this technology can help the user navigate the store based on their preferences and identity. For example showing customers where to find certain items. You could also hook their details up using their loyalty cards, so you can target their preferences. For example, women’s shoes or promotions on certain items that are relevant to the user. The user just needs to update the store they are visiting (using GPS). This feature could also exist for shopping complexes and department stores.

NFC / In-store Marketing: An inbuilt help section that answers common questions while they are in store. NFC stickers in store can help users to find out more information about products. For example an environmentally conscious retailer of clothes might want to highlight this to their customers. In store NFC stickers can sync with the app to say where the materials were sourced and how they reduce their carbon footprint for that particular item.

Augmented Reality (AR): This is a more high end but interactive form of marketing. These apps are not cheap but if they are used right can generate a lot of exposure and interactivity from the user base. See the Wimbledon Seer App from IBM below.

The App as a Marketing Tool

When apps first started flooding the market, the idea was that the user purchased the app, which generated revenue for the app developer / company who released it. This would offset the cost of developing, marketing and maintaining the app. This is still true for some apps, like games which are designed to entertain the user for free.

However with the release of more and more apps on the market, competition is high and users don’t want to pay for apps, particularly if they're commercially branded apps for retail / service companies. So came the rise of the marketing app.

The idea of the marketing app is that it’s ROI is measured through conversions, customer loyalty and brand identity, like any good advertising campaign. A good marketing app needs to have a purpose like an TV ad or billboard, to convert users or increase sales.

A good example was IBM's Wimbledon Seer App, an AR guide to Wimbledon for Android users. Seer delivered US $39.4 million for IBM, with free PR to the value of US$3 million, which created more positive brand awareness than the previous five years combined. The ROI was 1:156. 

Enhancements and upgrades

While new apps are often enthusiastically downloaded following a marketing campaign, most users will get bored of their app after a few months unless you are offering them new features and reasons to stay committed.

Like any campaign, there needs to be provision for ongoing marketing efforts that keep users interested and engaged. Enhancements, improvements and internal campaigns need to be considered. For example for a retail client, offering specials, eVouchers, invitations to product / line launches all keep the user coming back and feeling special. You have to compete with new apps entering the market everyday and to stay competitive you need to see an app as an evolving campaign.

Real Case Studies

OzSales: In the past year, this members only retailer has invested more time and marketing budget into their mobile sales, including an optimised site and an app. The ROI has demonstrated it’s paying off, with mobile sales hitting 26% in October last year and now nearing 50%. Their reasoning is that people are time poor, mobiles are handy, easy to access and with the consumer at all times. Even on the sofa while watching TV the app is accessible. By following best practice in mobile first marketing, they have moved with technology and increased their customer loyalty and improved brand awareness.

Sodacard: This company is using the mobile app to generate customer loyalty, by building a loyalty program into it. Once the user downloads the app, they can use their mobile to scan a QR code at the register as they enter the store or make a purchase, to gain points. This builds up their loyalty card points and entitles to them to offers. So far out of 25,000 loyalty program customers, 40% have chosen to use the app, instead of the standard card. Demonstrating the willingness for people to move from cards to their mobile to complete the shopping experience.

For retailers there are so many opportunities to stay in touch with their customers, gain loyalty, increase brand awareness and market directly to their target audience using an app. Even a simple app, used in conjunction with a bricks and mortar store offers a barrage of opportunities that are not worth missing out on. Soon it will become a standard expectation from customers that their favourite high street store will have a complementary app, but with the average user only having 27 apps at a time on their phone, you have to make it competitive and market it right.

Also make sure your app is cross promoted with your other marketing material. Too often brilliant app ideas are put out there but there is no mention of the app on eDMs, the website or catalogues which means the customer might not even get to find out about it!

If you want to talk about some ideas or strategies as either a standalone app or as an integrate marketing campaign, feel free to discuss with us. We’re always here to help you deliver an innovative digital strategy or at the very least bounce ideas and offer suggestions.


Sources (Wimbledon App)