Retaining customers is a primary goal of any growing business, but it’s not easy in an era when brand loyalty among web users is scarce, choice is seemingly endless, and offers and discounts abound.
One program that can help businesses retain customers is a comprehensive mobile strategy.
Indeed, now that mobile penetration rates are hitting 101% in North America and an amazing 129% in Western Europe (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Internet World Stats), most people have access to high-speed broadband through a device in their pocket, and consumers are much more familiar with the online shopping process, increasingly turning to mobile to buy everything from groceries to holiday gifts.
So, if businesses want to capitalize on this new behavior, they must build an approachable and compelling mobile presence through apps and mobile-optimized sites.
This shift in focus might be obvious to many in business, but often there is a lack of understanding about the impact that a good mobile strategy can have on building long-lasting client relationships.
In this article, we’ll look at how mobile apps can boost return on investment, while cultivating a stronger bond with clients.
First, it’s important to know that apps are used more often and longer than mobile sites.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the way customers access a business online matters just as much as other key indicators like price and product range. A site can be mobile optimized and have some good functionality, but very often this is not the case.
An alternative is a dedicated mobile app. Recently, Adobe’s Digital Marketing Report stated that mobile app users are more loyal to a brand than those who visit a website from a mobile device. This is attributed to two factors:
- Unlike web visitors who might land on your website by pure accident, the people who actually download your app are customers who already know your brand and feel they have a relationship with you.
- When using an app, visitors tend to spend 3-4 times longer online than they would using a mobile site. In general, mobile sites are used to obtain quick information such as checking locations and looking up business phone numbers. Mobile apps often are preferred for prolonged activities or to access exclusive content and deals.
Prolonged app sessions translate into a great opportunity for brands to deliver marketing messages and consolidate customer relationships, while taking advantage of users’ high level of interest.
Thanks to app users’ favorable disposition toward brands, apps can be an extraordinarily effective tool for locking in customers and eventually turning them into brand evangelists. Let’s look at how you can do this:
Offer Dedicated Content
Content is king. Yes, we’ve heard it a million times, but it really is true.
People turn to apps to satisfy specific needs they may have and to receive dedicated services they cannot find on a website. They want something that is truly engaging and quick to respond.
By creating dedicated sections inside your app with extra resources that can be accessed only by app users, you are encouraging interaction via an app over the mobile site. If you want to, you also can set a private log-in option to enable only certain users to access your exclusive contents.
This way, you will make your app users feel unique and give them more reasons to use your app.
A great example of this is the New York Times App, created to offer real-time access to the latest news of the world via app and integrate the services offered via website and hardcopy version.
The app can be downloaded completely free of charge. It allows users to read as many as 10 articles per month and browse freely across all of its content-rich media sections. Once the maximum of 10 free articles per month is met, users can either stick to the 10 free-articles-per-month formula or subscribe to one of the paid plans to gain instant unlimited access to app contents and enjoy a device-tailored version of the app.
The New York Times’ killer content app
Communicate in Real Time
Brands that want to be successful need to approach clients on a one-to-one basis, and apps can help them achieve this goal. In a world in which every good or service seems to be customizable, brands that do not seek to anticipate their clients’ needs will lag behind rivals.
Thanks to push notifications, brands are able to reach out to their clients in real time and keep them updated about the latest news, product launches, and special deals.
By taking advantage of the latest in GPS and geo-targeting technology, businesses can now reach out – quite literally – to people as they enter an area where they have a store or are promoting special offers. Never before in the history of marketing have brands been able to tell when one of their clients is in a desired location.
By leveraging detailed information gathered from client behavior, businesses can make more enticing and successful promotional offers, resulting in more successful client interactions.
Forget about sales pitches. Give your clients well-timed content that truly matters to them, and they will respond with loyalty, trust, and positive word of mouth, which, of course, is of critical importance to every brand. In this digital age, an authentic referral by a friend, via social media, posted by an app, can directly contribute to more sales.
TechCrunch Italy 2013’s official app is an effective example of how mobile apps can help event organizers engage with attendees in real time for a smoother event experience.
TechCrunch Italy’s event app proved a user hit
During an event, it’s easy to lose track of timetables, get caught up in discussions, and miss out on valuable sessions because you’ve misplaced your agenda or just can’t find the right room. TechCrunch Italy got around this problem with a custom-designed app that was offered to all attendees as their own “pocket guide” to what was happening.
Geo-targeted push notifications were used to remind attendees of their sessions about to start, deliver relevant updates and last-minute changes, boost attendee engagement, and guarantee a fully satisfying event experience.
Anecdotal feedback from the guests and organizing team were hugely positive, with many saying it was a key contributor to the event’s overall success.
Reward Customer Loyalty
Getting customers to come back is essential for growth, and returning visitors are happy users. Retaining customers is just as important, if not more important, than attracting new ones.
Mobile apps can be a great way to keep the customer experience easy to navigate, versatile, and user friendly. This enables a customer-focused app to become the perfect tool for building customer loyalty by blending emotional and practical elements into one simple and powerful tool.
So, one way to reward customer loyalty is to provide an app.
In-app customer loyalty programs can truly help businesses go that extra mile in customer retention, encouraging customers to perform certain actions that will grant them a special benefit, such as a discount on their next purchase, VIP access to your new collection, or a coupon to redeem on other services.
Customers like ease of use and accessibility. When returning customers make a purchase via an app, the fact they can do this quickly and easily, with previously stored payment details, acts as a great purchase incentive. Then the customer can be rewarded further with an additional loyalty discount.
An excellent example of how apps can help brands establish long-lasting relationships with their customers is the Starbucks Official App. The app combines a highly intuitive interface with a tailor-made dashboard to offer an enhanced, more personal user experience.
Starbucks star app: customer loyalty rewarded
The Starbucks app also keeps users connected to their card, so they can just scan to pay, while earning Stars in the My Starbucks Rewards™ program. By accessing a dedicated section in their dashboard, users can track the Stars collected and redeem their rewards in the loyalty program.
Moreover, the gift section within the app allows users to send gifts and coupons to their friends via the app. This, of course, generates a profitable word-of-mouth campaign around the brand, using happy customers to spread the word via an engaging mobile app. Win-win!
Few things are more effective than special offers and discount codes when targeting new clients and enhancing existing relationships. According to a recent study on mobile customer behavior by Cone Consumer New Media Study, the main factors influencing users to engage with digital brands are:
- Incentives such as special deals
- Additional services and exclusives specifically devised for app users
In-app coupons give businesses the opportunity to create and promote customized, timely offers for their key audience group. The effect of having the incentive on your mobile device via an app intensifies the effect and ultimately presents an aspect of immediacy that pushes customers to interact right away. When it’s done correctly, sales rocket through the roof!
Furnish Enhanced Support
By empowering people to interact with businesses 24/7 from anywhere, mobile devices have revolutionized the way customers engage with brands. Mobile offers companies an unprecedented opportunity to improve customer care and lock in existing customers, while still capturing new ones.
These days, mobile customers expect to play an active role in company life and to easily get in touch with companies to ask for information or leave feedback.
That is why creating in-app feedback forms is an exceptional opportunity for brands to get precious feedback on their app, spot the services that need to be improved, and offer users a channel to complain rather than posting comments on the web.
Domino’s Pizza USA has been using its official app to simplify the ordering experience and make it easy and fun.
From the app, users can access the entire oven-baked menu as well as create their very own pizza, choosing among an incredibly wide range of ingredients, sauces, toppings, and crusts. By simply tapping a button on their smartphone screen, users can place their order and get their pizza delivered at the most convenient address and time or pick it up at the closest store.
Once the order has been placed with the store, users can track it using the Pizza Tracker widget inside the app to see exactly when the pizza is being made, when it’s baking, and when it’s ready to be picked up (or is en route to the user’s door).
Dominos domination: socially savvy and app ordering made easy
Domino’s has managed to create a full mobile experience with their app, which not only makes ordering easy, but also allows customers to follow the whole process. And because of the simplicity factor, the happy customer base is growing fast.
Mobile apps have changed the way customers interact with brands, paving the way to a win-win scenario that can generate true value for both the company and the customer.
The engagement level and intimacy factor offered by a mobile app are huge, and when brands tap into these, the rewards are enormous.
If properly integrated into business operations, apps can create a more compelling and satisfying experience for users, which ultimately results in long-lasting relationships. And if you have a good relationship with your customer, the potential for additional sales, free word-of-mouth publicity, and a long-term customer are invaluable to your business success!
A mobile-first strategy that combines mobile behavior analysis, location data, and content personalization certainly will lead to successful marketing campaigns and substantial ROI.
Investing in apps is no longer enough and the businesses that realize this quickly will be the winners. Now it’s time to invest in a new form of mobile relationship management to drive business growth while consolidating brand loyalty. Do it now, do it fast, and soon you’ll be reaping the rewards as customers engage with you in a much more immediate way.
About the Author: Daniele Pelleri is the Co Founder and CEO of AppsBuilder, an innovative mobile publishing and distribution platform that empowers SMEs and large enterprises to build a solid mobile presence, reach new customers, and improve client retention through powerful mobile apps. AppsBuilder’s vision is to give everyone the chance to have a fully functioning mobile presence without the need for complex coding knowledge. Sign up for a free trial or find out more in their resource center.