Stephan Schambach is the Founder and CEO of NewStore, a turnkey omnichannel store solution.
The events of the past few years have flipped the script on the omnichannel conversation. When the pandemic hit, retail businesses had no choice but to adapt. The omni-leaders doubled down on their prior investments, while the omni-laggards began to rethink their digital transformation priorities. As a result, investment in retail technology spiked more than 200% year over year.
However, the omnichannel boom is starting to slow down. According to a recent Omnichannel Leadership Report, which measured the omnichannel competence of 250 luxury, premium and lifestyle brands, the spike in innovation has stalled. One reason for this is the omni-laggards were simply looking for quick fixes to check a box. Unfortunately, incremental innovation won’t drive long-term growth. Brands must launch a complete digital transformation across every business function to win in the age of the digital consumer.
On top of that, brands need to be flexible. Consumer expectations are higher than ever, so retail businesses need to provide the experiences customers demand by meeting them when, where and how they want to shop.
Going Mobile Now
Brands need to look beyond traditional e-commerce and brick-and-mortar when thinking about the potential of omnichannel. Yes, today’s savvy and purposeful shopper wants to feel digitally empowered online and in-store, but they also want to interact with their favorite brands on mobile.
According to Forrester, mobile retail accounted for nearly 44% of all U.S. online retail sales in 2020. Forrester also expects total U.S. mobile commerce to grow by 14.4% from 2019 to 2024. It’s no secret that consumers are relying on their mobile devices more than ever, and they’re getting more comfortable shopping on them as well. This is shown by the usage rates of mobile retail apps, which are also on the rise. A recent global study found that time spent in mobile shopping apps is up 49% since last year as the retail industry moves toward pandemic recovery.
Consumer behavior is the best indicator of how people want to shop. Combine that with the fact that omnichannel has become table stakes for every retail brand, and it’s clear that now is the time for businesses to think about how mobile fits into their digital strategies.
The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle
While some brands have made strides when it comes to embracing mobile, more specifically branded mobile apps, this channel has been underutilized by retailers. Our research shows that only 34% of brands have a shoppable mobile app. At the same time, out of the brands that do offer a mobile application, very few have the robust features needed to spark mass adoption.
When executed correctly, branded mobile apps are the missing piece of the omnichannel puzzle because they create a more meaningful connection between the brand and the consumer. Most importantly, they establish a connection between a brand, its digital channels, stores, associates and customers. By bundling everything from mobile shopping, mobile in-store capabilities and loyalty with features like clienteling, push notifications and content, branded mobile apps provide a curated experience that consumers can carry around in their pocket.
On their own, branded mobile apps allow businesses with limited omnichannel capabilities to expand their digital footprint with a tool that’s relatively low cost and easy to implement. However, it’s important that they work in concert with a brand’s existing retail solutions. If product information is inaccurate, or a user profile isn’t up to date, brands will struggle to create experiences that consumers want to use again and again. When deployed as part of a more comprehensive omnichannel strategy, branded mobile apps allow businesses to add tremendous value for their customers while also driving sales.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Branded Mobile Apps
Before developing and deploying a branded mobile app, it’s important to understand the common mistakes brands make in this process. Here are a few things to keep in mind before getting started:
• Branded mobile apps ≠ mobile websites. If you’ve simply repackaged your brand’s website as a mobile app, you’ve failed. By their very nature, mobile apps should provide a more personalized experience for your customers. Brands that neglect to differentiate their app from other channels will be exposed by the consumer and the investment could go to waste.
• Set it and forget it doesn’t work. The development and deployment of a mobile app require resources and investment, but the work doesn’t end the day it goes live. At the most basic level, brands need to ensure the back end is working properly at all times and the front end is updated with the latest products and content. However, it is also important to innovate constantly. Surveying your users and listening to them will create an experience that they are more likely to engage with and suggest to others.
• Don’t neglect in-store functionality. Branded mobile apps are also a powerful tool for improving the customer experience in-store. Not only do they streamline digital processes like buying online to pick up in-store and mobile checkout, but they also offer new ways to interact with a store and its products. When building your mobile app, it’s critical to think about the features that will improve the in-store experience for your brand specifically.
• Security should be a top priority. When done right, mobile apps are a consumer’s key to a brand. While apps allow customers to research products, make purchases and interact with their favorite retailers, they also store (in some capacity) personal information like addresses, payment information and more. As the digital world grows so quickly and vastly, security is often viewed as an afterthought — if it’s even considered at all. Protecting customers and their data is essential to the success of your mobile app strategy.
It’s understandable why retail investments have focused on e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores, especially amid the pandemic. Brands needed to ensure their businesses could survive. But that doesn’t mean mobile should be ignored. In fact, it should be viewed as a complement to the more traditional omnichannel capabilities and the next wave of commerce. This is even more true now that the pandemic is showing signs of receding. The brands that made it through have an opportunity to take stock and assess where they stand when it comes to their omnichannel competence. From there, they can determine what’s working, what’s not and where they should invest next.