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Creating a Mobile App For The Omnichannel Shopper

Retailers with mobile apps often take advantage of the unique capabilities of apps by designing them to be their own unique shopping experience, one that’s unlike browsing on any other channel. When done well, this can be a great thing – customers who shop on mobile do so for very specific reasons, many of which are either time-sensitive or are related to early-stage browsing), and those customers will likely be excited about the prospect of engaging with your brand in a different way.

But it’s critical that marketers make sure their app doesn’t obstruct their visibility into what customers are doing on other devices. And unfortunately, this is a big problem that many retailers with mobile apps still have – many brands design apps with a “mobile first, mobile only” mentality, forgetting that the majority of shoppers not only move frequently between mobile and web, they do so specifically at purchase. As a result marketers aren’t able to unify and leverage cross-channel behavior to create a full picture of each customer.

To illustrate this point, we downloaded 3 retailers’ mobile apps and abandoned an item in each app’s shopping cart. When we switched to web to make our purchase – which 35% of customers do, according to research by ThinkByGoogle – we were surprised to find that our shopping carts were empty. The retailers had no record of us having abandoned any merchandise, and weren’t able to redirect us back to our shopping carts and guide is towards a purchase.

Speaking first from a more general, purely omnichannel standpoint, if marketers can’t stitch together what customers are doing on multiple devices, they won’t be able to deliver the kind of targeted messages that are critical to driving engagement. But this particular instance of an inability to link omnichannel behaviors is especially egregious when you think about the sheer number of customers who specifically switch from mobile to web at purchase, and who deliberately leave merchandise abandoned in mobile shopping carts with the intention of completing the purchase via web.

Consider the fact that:

1. 82% of smartphone users turn to mobile to help them make a product decision, and mobile shopping-related searches have increased by 120% in the past year.
2. 42% of shoppers surveyed by Nielsen rely exclusively on their mobile devices for pre-purchase research.
3. Mobile now represents 65% of digital media time, and desktop is being considered a “secondary touchpoint.”

If you treat your mobile apps like isolated bubbles, you’re not going to be able to provide a channel-agnostic, cohesive shopping experience – one that accounts for a shopper’s tendency to switch between web and mobile fairly rapidly and fairly frequently, and especially right around purchase. Retailers with apps cannot afford to miss these signals, if they’re trying to engage with customers in the right way and capture moments of peak interest in order to more effectively drive a purchase.

However unique your app, it absolutely cannot be separate from the shopping experience as a whole. Customers are increasingly using their phones more and more frequently during the purchasing cycle, in tandem with other devices and in ways that make it absolutely critical for marketers to follow them from channel to channel in real-time. Retailers who design retail apps need to do so within the context of the entire shopping journey from start to finish, so they can better understand what their customers need at every point in that journey – no matter where they are.

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