Why Mobile App Customer Experience Lags Behind Other Channels
Every marketer has done painstaking research to understand where mobile makes an appearance along the customer journey. They understand that customers always have their phones, and always expect a personalized, relevant interaction on mobile. Mobile commerce is set to grow 29% in 2019, however, our research shows that mobile lags far behind on-site and email personalization, and doesn’t deliver the same level of customer experience.
Before Amazon.com sucks up all of the new dollars being spent on mobile, marketers need to take a good look at their own approach, which is holding them back. Marketers admit to being behind on mobile personalization, see disappointing mobile usage rates, and have trouble getting ahead of mobile development and innovation. In one survey, marketers admitted that while more than half (58%) personalized their mobile site, only 28% personalized mobile apps.
Shifting Lines of Ownership
In 2019, a large number of brands have a marketing department dedicated to website management. Brands like Nordstrom have made huge gains in the market by constantly redesigning their site to appeal to discerning shoppers.
Mobile is different. Developing a new app is a harrowing technical project that’s too complex for many marketing organizations. Therefore, a lot of brands rely on a combination of design agency and internal dev team to deliver. The side effect is that the dev team often retains ownership of the app maintenance and updating. Any upgrades or changes are subject to a broader product road map process that can slow things down considerably for a very fast-moving channel. One study indicated that 38% of companies updated their apps once per month, and 45% update their app every two months to six months. The rest update even less frequently.
But things are changing rapidly. Gartner reports that a large number of companies have started to build martech teams that are primarily managed through the marketing organization. It’s only a matter of time before a martech leader takes ownership of the company app and integrates the road map with a broader customer-centric strategy.
The very best performing brands create customer centricity with the app as part of, rather than to the side of, the rest of the customer experience. In Sailthru’s Retail Personalization Index research, one of the biggest indicators of satisfaction was a strong connected experience between online and offline channels. Mobile apps are integral to that experience. The best performing retail apps generally enhance the in-store experience.
For example, The Home Depot’s app has a “store mode,” which includes maps and GPS features to navigate its giant warehouses. Nordstrom sends nearby shoppers push notifications about the availability of items in their online carts, tempting them to visit the store. Nike’s app has a QR code a person can scan when they walk into a store to check in and get personalized service. At Sephora, a Beauty Advisor logs all the products used for an in-store makeover and that list appears in the person’s app.
How to Bring Mobile Into the Fold
When marketers take control of their mobile app strategy and development, customer-centric planning, design and communication become possible. However, there are many steps along the journey.
The start of the mobile process really begins with getting the app onto a consumer’s phone in the first place. Google found that only about 40% of app users browse for apps in the app store. The other roads to finding an app are less direct. About a quarter find apps through search engines, and others look for it on a website. Marketers looking to incorporate mobile into the rest of their multichannel strategy first need to consider exactly how their customers will be finding the app.
Marketers also need to know why people are downloading the app. For a travel brand, that reason might be to manage an itinerary, keep track of loyalty points, or both. For a beauty brand, it might be to browse new products or to redeem coupons and track deals. Marketers need to build discovery and data gathering elements into their app to learn as much as possible as soon as possible if they want to personalize effectively.
The app also needs to be tied to other channels with shared data and content strategies. A consumer browsing a sale item on a brand’s website is going to expect to find that same item at the same price on the app. If they’re logged into the site and have a profile created already, they don’t want to have to go through the same process on mobile.
An app isn’t going to be used by everyone, and many people who download an app will use it very occasionally. Great customer experience respects occasional shoppers with a thoughtful approach to push notifications and other elements to bring them back, and identifies the high-volume app users and overdelivers for them at a personalized level. There are a million ways to make for better app experiences, from integrating PayPal or Amazon Prime to saving favorites or alerting shoppers when an item is on sale.
The key to long-term mobile success is to create a constantly evolving cycle of improvement, testing what works and using those insights to deliver even more. When marketers incorporate mobile apps into their broader marketing development, they can design for the complete customer experience.