By Sandra Guy: Contributing business-technology writer/Chicago Sun-Times
With smartphones the go-to source of news, opinion and everyday alerts, what better way for a business owner to capture customers’ attention and heighten customer retention than with a mobile app?
An app is a software application for devices such as tablets and smartphones, rather than for laptops or desktop computers. Apps come in different styles and not all apps work for all kinds of smartphones. The basic kinds are native apps, which use software code that works with one kind of smartphone operating system; browser-based apps that run on a variety of smartphones and wireless devices; and hybrid apps that combine features of both. Platforms like Shopgate design native apps to work specifically with a user’s device. This allows for intuitive syncing with features such as a smartphone’s camera and GPS, unlike with a mobile website. As with any business decision, it’s key to figure out the best way to leverage your app’s functionality, based on the preferences and needs of your customer base.
After all, adults in the United States now spend an average of three hours and eight minutes a day on mobile devices, and that excludes voice conversations, says research firm eMarketer Inc.
Though people confront a fast-growing number of mobile apps to download, don’t sell yourself short. Your loyal customers can be enticed to download an app if they see it’s you and even more-so if a treat awaits, whether it’s a discount, a thank-you reward or access to exclusive, must-see content.
One of the biggest advantages to mobile apps is their default method of communication – push notifications. Users opt in to push notifications when they download your app, and thanks to their targeted messaging, yield a 278% increase in engagement, making them a far better communication method than email. Users often opt into these notifications because they don’t interrupt what smartphone users are already doing, and cost them nothing. Take care not to overdo it on sending these notices, and think carefully before sending a message that’s meant to engage your shoppers. It’s all about making your customers’ lives easier, but keep it short, simple, worthy and relevant.
You'll also be able to collect more behavioral data with a mobile app than from a website. That’s because apps can track and watch smartphone users’ interests and locations. So, without alarming your customers, you can use the information to offer compelling content that appeals to them.
Indeed, companies are showing they can stay ahead of the curve by using their mobile apps to integrate payment systems, virtual reality and time-saving functions.
For example, users of some restaurant-booking apps can find mobile coupons or get other forms of discounts at restaurants where they have virtually booked a table and checked waiting times.
Just remember, mobile is driving the biggest retail sales growth, yet retailers must move quickly to capture this opportunity. Savvy tools to seize the mobile bonanza include ad scanners, QR scanners, store locators, push notifications and shipment tracking.
A key indicator of how tightly U.S. consumers are tethered to their smartphones and mobile devices was Apple’s November 2015 launch of a shopping category in its App Store. So now that retailers’ apps are even easier for users to find, it’s more vital than ever that retailers stay at the top of their game with mobile native apps and features that wow their customers at just the right time with just the right message.
To learn more about making shopping apps a part of your mobile strategy, request a free demo with one of our mCommerce experts.