If you’re a brick-and-mortar retail brand, then you’ve probably noticed the intense competition that is being driven by online sales and mobile app growth.
You might think that the convenience of purchasing online through mobile apps would be the death of in-store retail, but studies have shown that this isn’t true. People actually still want to physically shop in-store. However, the face of what that looks like is changing.
Customers do prefer to go through the final stages of their shopping journey physically in-store. However, many prefer to conduct research online with their mobile devices beforehand.
This represents opportunities for stores – what if you could provide mobile app user experiences in-store?
What Enhances the In-Store Experience?
Let’s start out with something that tends to be a good thing to avoid; don’t try to create a mobile product that is derived from the User Experience of your website.
Retail apps tend to be used by a smaller percentage of your overall customers. However, the users tend to have more brand loyalty. They are the ones who will keep returning as long as they appreciate the User Experience you provide.
Brand loyalty is also indicative of how much your customers will spend. So when it comes to delivering an app experience, you should be thinking about what will excite them, enhance their app experience, and have them increase their mobile engagement.
When you’re talking about enhancing the in-store experience, you might look at the following components to encourage users to share their app experience keep shoppers engaged:
- Discovery – As we heard earlier, while shoppers like to complete the experience in-store, they prefer to research online first through specific apps. The opportunity for an engaging app experience here is to make product discovery easy from within the User Interface. For example, could you provide users with a barcode or QR code in-store to pull up all the information they need on the product? Could you improve the checkout experience by putting app features in place to make it faster?
- Engaging Content – Are there “extras” you could provide for your user retention efforts to increase brand loyalty? For example, can you provide users with content of interest? Customers may be interested to know about the sustainable sources of your products or even to access content that is loosely related. Starbucks provides access to music on its app. A customer could potentially sip their coffee while listening to the music of their choice, which is a great app experience.
- Loyalty or rewards – Seeing rewards accumulate on an app can be a motivating enhancement for retaining users. Using Starbucks as an example again, users can always see how many “stars” they need to collect to earn a reward, and they also encourage users to take advantage of additional offers on the home screen for ways to earn bonuses. You could also use location services to offer coupons or perhaps send push notifications of offers when a user is nearby or in-store.
- Utility – Besides features like product discovery, what other “utility” functions could your app have? These features are a great way to supplement the app experience. Starbucks has a store locator and allows users to order ahead on the app. A retail store could allow for eCommerce function integration to speed their customers through checkout. “Click and collect,” which allows users to buy on the app and collect in-store, is another possibility.
- Community – Does it make sense for your brand to offer classes or events in-store? You could use your app to invite people to attend events and give them multiple registration options.
You’ve really got to think about how the physical and app experience can work together to enhance one another. It’s not enough to simply rely on a mobile-friendly website because, with an app, you have the opportunity to create better utility and reach long-term success metrics.
What are Brands Doing?
There are brands out there already creating really cool app experiences in-store, and the exciting thing is that we’re really only just getting started with what mobile can bring to the User Experience in-store. Here are a few examples of brands creating engaging app experiences in-store:
“Seamless” is one word that comes to mind when you look at how Apple has combined the physical and digital for an engaging in-store app experience. Apple’s “Next Generation” stores are currently in a few key locations, but they are expanding their concept further.
Sales team members all carry iPads, allowing them to answer customer questions quickly, do barcode scanning, and help customers to research what they need. Customers can make appointments for the “Genius Bar” via the mobile app or online, and then they are welcomed when they arrive in-store.
You might expect this from a company that is already at the cutting-edge of technology, but Apple is currently beating most other tech providers for in-store app experiences that combine digital and physical. All products can be tried in-store, and the use of mobile apps is basically the backbone of the store.
For an engaging app experience at work in a luxury fashion brand, Rebecca Minkoff’s New York City flagship store is a great example.
The store caters to customer preference by giving them options, including simply browsing as they would traditionally if they would like. For those who are digitally inclined, the store offers state-of-the-art technology, allowing shoppers to browse on giant touchscreen mirrors. They can even order drinks and download the mobile app from the mirror.
The customer can then select available items that they’d like to try and have them added to their dressing room. Once ready, the customer will receive a text message.
The fitting room mirror is next-level tech. The customer can call a stylist and configure settings such as lighting and temperature for their fitting room. If the customer decides to purchase the items, they can request check out by tapping the mirror in their dressing room.
Another important feature here is the follow-up. The customer’s preferences will be saved to their profile so that next time they are in-store, they can receive intelligent recommendations.
Lowes has recently partnered up with Google and Lenovo to create their app Lowe’s Vision. The app features cutting-edge augmented reality technology so that users can measure their spaces at home and envision how items such as furniture will look in those spaces.
When customers come into a Lowe’s store, the app on their phone can tell them where to find the products they’ve picked out, and it can give them other information on the products.
Successful brands tend to be those who are prepared to adapt to customer preferences and move ahead with the advantages that new technology can bring them. While many retailers have struggled with competition online, studies show that customers still have a preference for completing their shopping journey in-store.
Creating a seamless app experience in-store helps cater to customer preferences and bring them the best of both worlds. If you’re wondering how your retail app can provide a better app experience to your customers, speak with an app development partner.