Retailers struggle to combat ‘app apathy’

Almost every large retailer now has a mobile app, most of which are designed to let customers shop online and access loyalty offers easier, but the prevalence of individual apps is running the risk of users deleting all but the most engaging.

David Buckingham, chief executive at point of sale software company Ecrebo, said the apps on offer range from the basic e-commerce enhancers to the sophisticated portals that include offers and content to steer brand experience.

“But therein lies the problem, from a retailer’s point of view the value of the app is clear, but what about the consumer, where is the value in having a raft of apps on your phone?” he commented.

“We download apps because they serve a purpose - navigation, music, chat, news, workflow - but when it comes to retail apps, is the same true? Consider how many retailers you interact with, would you download an app for each and every one?”

Buckingham pointed out that initial download figures following launch or promotion are often high, but they then taper off over time, with active user numbers generally low.

“If retailers want to overcome app apathy, they need to give their customers something of value –whether that’s a collaboration with other retailers, or complementary brands, only the future will tell.”

Rob Meakin, managing director at app builder Loyalty Pro, said that many retailer apps are static and simply show a few offers that are available on external websites, with some app stores taking steps to weed out or reject those that add little beyond existing sites.

He argued that apps need to be dynamic, run in real time and linked to a database. “Our apps display the points balance, store locations and directions on a map, terms and conditions, vouchers accrued and provide personalised offers.”

A recent trend in the market has been for amalgamation across brands. “We do this by location, as we like to support independent retailers via a community model. Our app can show the customer how many points and vouchers have been accrued in the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in a particular area,” said Meakin.

Companies such as Bink are taking a top down approach by signing up multiple national retailers.

The free Bink app lets consumers store and view all their loyalty cards on mobile, and link everyday payment cards to automatically collect points and rewards, in what it calls Payment Linked Loyalty.

Chief executive and founder Lee Clarke stated in a company blog that too many retailers fail to use data to add real value and increase customer satisfaction.

“Consumers rightly expect great experiences but, unfortunately, they often find themselves falling through the cracks as they move across industry sectors and brands – it needn’t be like this,” he wrote. “By sharing data in a responsible way, retailers and banks can delight customers and also identify opportunities.”

Clarke opined that consumers have come to expect a personalised experience when they interact with any brand, but both retailers and banks that have access to relevant data are either not using it, or not doing so in the most effective way.

“Loyalty schemes already help retailers identify customers and tailor offers to them, but the relationship can be enhanced further by switching to a digital loyalty scheme, whereby customers are identified through their payment card instead of a physical loyalty card,” he explained.

“This creates richer insights for the bank and the retailer, and allows them to deliver better customer experiences through personalised offers and promotions,” Clarke continued. “Of course, in the post-GDPR world, customers need to give their consent, but research shows that, with the right level of clarity and incentives, customers will part with their data if it brings them benefits.”

Engagement can be maintained to a large extent by ensuring apps reflect the brand’s look and feel. Plus, an app allows the retailer to communicate with the customer directly via push notifications, for example.

Many new firms have taken the view that traditional loyalty cards are finished, and are exclusively targeting today’s tech savvy customer via apps.

“In the long term, we doubt consumers will want to download and use 50 different loyalty apps any more than they want to carry 50 different loyalty cards,” added Meakin.

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