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Your Customers are on Smartphones: Are You Giving them Dumb Apps?

By Michael Jaconi, CEO & Co-Founder, Button

Michael Jaconi, CEO & Co-Founder, Button

People continue to spend more time on mobile, requesting, purchasing, and booking the exact products they want, at the exact time they want them. Every retailer must have a mobile app strategy, one that can fulfill these on-demand behaviors and lofty consumer expectations. To complicate things, people are using multiple devices throughout the day—a study by Criteo found that nearly 4 in 10 transactions involve multiple devices, as people browse and research products across desktop, smartphones, and tablets, before making their final purchase decision.

“Building an app as your mobile storefront, however, is only the first step.”

You’re told constantly to think of people, not devices for your sales and marketing strategy, stemming from people’s cross-device behavior. Notwithstanding this truism, when comparing the conversion rate to purchase across devices, apps outperform not just mobile web, but also desktop. On top of that, mobile commerce will continue to grow — Forrester projected mobile commerce will reach $149 billion in volume in the U.S. alone by 2019—with apps leading the way.

The very real question, then is “What should your device strategy be? While you should think of your customers in terms of personas, profiles, and purchase behavior, it is also important to understand why your specific retail touchpoints—namely the apps and smartphones that house them—perform better for your business. You need to meet the fastest growing demand for your products, which happens to be on smartphones.

Mobile is winning a greater share of your e-commerce and coming to parity with desktop for a few reasons. First, improvements in screen size—products are now easier to browse and compare, which means the biggest differentiation for desktop is less of an issue. Network bandwidth continues to reach higher speeds, meaning less hang time or error states as your customers make a purchase decision. It’s also becoming easier and more user friendly to purchase on mobile, and the latent fears that people had about mobile being an unsafe environment to use sensitive financial information are being assuaged.

Apps are reaping the lion’s share of this growth simply because people prefer their experiences with them. Facebook published a study late last year that showed shoppers preferred apps over web for five reasons: apps provide a safe checkout experience, a smoother checkout process, hold payment information, are easier to navigate when browsing, and feature product details that are easier to read. The user experience in all stages of the customer journey, from browsing to checkout, feels safer, easier, and—to put it simply—better.

This is great news for retailers who have already built a mobile app: you’re already offering the ideal customer experience on mobile. You’re also widening your funnel when you get people to your app: Criteo found that, when compared to mobile web, people view four times the products on an average in an app and convert to purchase at a rate 23% higher than mobile web.

You also have an opportunity to build inordinate customer loyalty — when your app is installed, your brand is at your customers’ fingertips, on valuable screen real estate, at nearly all hours of the day. This ensures you’re ready to capture purchase intent as soon as it happens on mobile; not to mention, you reinforce brand recognition and loyalty with the presence of your app icon. When you create a good mobile retail experience, and start to send your customers there, you get a sale, but more than that, a loyal customer by virtue of the app install. Now, this customer has a direct channel to your brand through your app - and this will help remove some of the dependence on search or other forms of advertising - now you can use notifications to alert consumers about deals, specials, or when they’re near your store. All 1st party channels of marketing enabled through your app’s presence on a consumer’s device.

Building an app as your mobile storefront, however, is only the first step. The mobile world introduces complexity as you try and understand the best ways to acquire and engage your customers in your app and to get them to purchase.

While your customers love the user experience you can provide in a native app—with personalized offers, better product content and visuals, easier checkout experiences—the experience getting them there is sub-par. First and foremost, discovery is challenging. Leading people to the app store and convincing them to download your app is difficult and costly. Not to mention the alternate experience, mobile web, is clunky and feels insecure.

And even when you acquire a valuable customer to your app, often they will land on your app’s homepage, rather than the exact product they were viewing or intent on buying before getting there. This is an issue of deep linking; whereas on the web deep linking to products is universally accessible, deep linking on mobile is specific to each app, and apps need be configured to handle deep links and route your users to the correct product.

Finally, on web, measurement is simplified with cookies and pixels that can be used to identify a user and understand when they convert to purchase, or for retargeting them with the specific product they were interested in. On mobile, with Google Play and Apple App Store as intermediaries, you need to install a Software Development Kit (SDK) to associate a user’s device ID with specific conversion events, and resubmit to the app stores. This will only track what a user does within your app, however, so you will also need to think through how you measure what your customers are doing before they install your app, or as they move across devices.

Having a Mobile App Strategy

Offering your products through a mobile app gives people easier access to your storefront, native to their smartphone experience. It is crucial that you think about the specific needs of your mobile app and its user experience to drive the most sales possible, and to equip your marketing teams with the optimal landing experiences and tracking they need to be successful.

There are four key tenants, then, to consider to ensure your mobile app strategy is optimized for thumb-driven sales:

1. Ensure your app is configured to handle deep links, to bring customers to exact product or landing experiences: Much like the web, people convert better on mobile when you send them to a landing page tailored for them or to the product they were originally intent on buying. You can link people to the exact content in your app that you previewed in an ad or email campaign on mobile, but need to set up deep links to do so. Coordinate internal teams to ensure your development team sets up deep linking for your app, and your marketing team uses deep links to make their campaigns smarter.

2. Make mobile measurement a priority to understand your customer behavior down to purchases, and to retarget intent buyers: Choose a partner to provide you a mobile measurement solution, and integrate their SDK into your app. Make sure all of the events you care about — app open, first sign up, add to cart, purchase, etc. — and their values are being recorded, so that you can receive actionable insights about your customers, and to power your retargeting campaigns. Your marketing team will thank you.

3. Optimize your mobile app acquisition channels, and understand the lifetime value of your app users: Acquisition marketing on mobile is a two-step process — you need to first acquire the potential customer as an installed user, then get them to make their first purchase. It’s important to understand the maximum you are willing to pay for an installed user, knowing that you will use email and push to re-engage them to purchase. You can quickly understand this by calculating the lifetime value of your app users, for example, your average revenue per user, and use that to inform the maximum cost-per-install you’re willing to spend.

4. Make sure your web marketing is mobile-enabled, too: Don’t think of your marketing channels by device. Search, social, and even affiliate channels now recognize mobile users and offer ways to offer the best experience when users interact with your brand. For example, your Google Adwords campaigns give you the option to use a mobile URL for existing web campaigns, to route mobile users correctly. On Facebook, you can set a call-to-action for your Page that send people to your website on desktop, and to your apps on Android and iOS. And for affiliate, extend your web marketing to mobile with Button, putting your products in a call-to-action, in context, across a network of publisher apps.

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