Using retail mobile apps to enhance the in-store shopping experience

Communications and Distribution Writer

Retail mobile apps offer merchants a way to deliver the highly personalized and immersive in-store shopping experience that consumers have increasingly come to expect in today's hyper-connected world. A growing number of consumers have already begun using such apps in stores to redeem coupons, compare pricing, earn loyalty points or view product ratings and reviews. Some 51 percent of respondents to an August 2015 consumer survey by Apptentive said they used a retail mobile app while shopping in a physical store for precisely such reasons, reports Business Insider.

Some retailers are taking advantage of the trend and developing their own mobile apps to drive more in-store sales by guiding the purchasing decisions of consumers—while they are in the store and before they set foot in it. mobile app success stories

High-end fashion retailer Nordstrom, for instance, is using its mobile app as a way to enable a closer interaction between customers and in-store salespeople, reports Datafloq. Nordstrom's mobile app lets customers check for things like product availability, size and color before they visit a Nordstrom store. It offers personalized recommendations based on the customer's profile, and also uses data gathered and analyzed from Nordstrom's millions of followers on social media channels like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to highlight trending products.

Customers who opt-in can have their profiles—including purchase histories—pushed to in-store salespeople when they enter a store so they can get personalized service. As the Harvard Business Review notes, the app gives salespeople information that includes items a customer may have bought previously, what they would like to buy and what they might have searched for but couldn't find online.

Big-box retailer Target is another example. The company's mobile app takes advantage of product location data, a store's physical layout and a customer's profile to push out personalized promotions to customers as they shop in-store. Earlier this year, reports Tech Crunch, the company began installing beaconing technology at dozens of its stores to enable this capability for the Target mobile app customers that agree to have their movements tracked. The recommendations are designed to show up as alerts on a consumer's smartphone or as in-app updates.

Applying analytics to app development

The key to delivering such retail mobile apps lies in understanding customer behavior and adopting a data-driven approach to app development. Understanding your target user base, particularly how Web-savvy they are, is critical to ensuring your app's success. Gathering and analyzing data on what mobile users are doing on your website, for instance, can provide insight on where they go, what engages them and what encourages them to stay on the site. The average length of time users spend on your mobile site can provide a decent indication of how user-friendly or useful it is to the user.

Applying deep analytics to big data gathered from point-of-sale systems, social media channels and customer loyalty programs can provide insight into what your customers are buying, what they are interested in, which promotions and messages work and how much they are influenced by social media trends. Such information can provide vital clues on how to design your mobile application.

Gathering information on the devices users are using to access your website can help ensure your mobile app is optimized for the appropriate technologies. If you want your retail mobile apps to enhance your customer's in-store experience, you need to listen to what they are saying and doing while they are in the store, on your website or on social media.

Analytics can help you optimize and fine-tune your mobile app even after you release it. Nordstrom, for instance, frequently updates its mobile app in response to changing customer preferences and behaviors. Earlier this year, the retailer introduced a new feature on its mobile app for iOS devices that let users shop the company's print catalog and buy with their mobile devices in response to what it perceived as a need for this capability among some users.

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