Pushing the mobile platform: five app strategies to drive retail conversions

As far as retail apps are concerned, it’s a jungle out there. Recent stats show more than a fifth of retail apps are now deleted by consumers after just one use – but the prize for retailers who get their app right can be huge. Customers are three times more likely to complete a purchase on an app, compared to those made through a website. And that’s because market-leading apps, such as those belonging to Amazon, John Lewis and ASOS, provide a fast-track to sales conversions.

Superior user experience, slick navigation, speed and purchase path, mean in-app shoppers stay longer, spend more often and buy more on each visit when compared to desktop buying journeys, so there’s a compelling business case for getting your app strategy on point.

Here I’ve put together my top-five tips for ensuring your retail app becomes a super-charged fast-track to sales.

1. First impressions last

Your customers want a fast and frictionless experience while shopping on your app. If the onboarding process is any longer or more complex than strictly necessary, they’ll assume all future interactions will be just as laborious. You can make a good first impression by limiting the number of steps needed, manage your customers’ expectations by telling them how long set-up will take and incentivise them with a reward when the job is done.

Customer education can also be a vital factor during app onboarding – you want to show your customer how slick and easy your app is to use to keep them coming back. Tutorials and walkthroughs are popular, but don’t attempt long up-front static tutorials as shoppers may struggle to remember all the information – and some may simply switch off. Stick to a maximum of five screens, animate the tutorial to maintain interest and keep the detail short and to the point, so it is easy to consume.

A neat way to keep information relevant is to stagger the onboarding process, triggering mini tutorials when customers reach specific points in their buying journey, rather than expecting them to remember everything up-front.

2. Get the push notification balance right

This is easier said than done - and requires a fine balance. Effective use of push notification can improve app engagement by as much as 88% but they mustn’t be so frequent that they become intrusive or distracting. To be effective, notifications need to add immediate value to the shopper – and that’s where personalisation comes in. Indeed, a recent study by Leanplum, which analysed 1.5bn push notifications, found that personalisation can increase notification open rates by up to 800%.

There are lots of ways you can personalise notifications, including your customer’s name, gender, age or, more powerfully, referencing an action or event they took part in, or consider using AI to analyse individual users’ behaviour patterns to see what content or product types resonate best to increase engagement. Another neat strategy is to send a personalised push notification to shoppers who have abandoned their cart, reminding them of what they’re missing or offering them an incentive, such as free delivery or a discount code, to complete the purchase.

As well as personalisation strategies, adding geo-location capabilities can also improve the performance of notifications. For example, apps can help drive-bricks-and-mortar conversions by triggering alerts when customers are near to a physical store and reminding them of products they previously browsed or serving up a personalised offer to incentivise them to visit the store.

3. Earn customer loyalty

Apps are the new loyalty cards for forward-thinking retailers and mobile-based reward schemes are a tangible benefit to encourage customers to download your app.

They also give marketers the power to create personalised rewards programmes based on an individual user’s behaviour. For example, Starbucks loads a free coffee voucher onto its app on the user’s birthday, while luxury department store, Harvey Nichols, allows customers to collect points which unlock personalised rewards and experiences.

4. Streamline your app payments process

For many apps, the checkout can be a catalyst for cart abandonment. The main problem is that payment can involve keying-in too much sensitive data, time and time again, with every purchase.

As you would expect, disruptors such as Amazon have overcome this by storing information and enabling single-click purchasing. Automating this step, and others like it, helps to create a more frictionless checkout process and enables the customer to be spontaneous, encourages repeat custom and builds loyalty.

5. Bricks-and-mortar functionality

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that apps are just for online shopping. Most shoppers use their phones as a vital source of information while browsing in-store, so why not build in bricks-and-mortar functionality into your app.

For example, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s are currently trialing an in-aisle checkout app that enables shoppers to scan and pay without the need for queuing at a till. The boundaries between physical and digital can be blurred further by offering app users access to virtual aisles with extended inventories and product recommendations while they shop in store. Geo-location capabilities can also trigger personalised offers as shoppers browse via the app to encourage in-store conversions.