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Five Ways Retailers Can Take Their Mobile Customer Experience from Good to Great

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By Robi Ganguly

It's been shown that people who use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store visit the store more frequently, spend more time in the store, and spend more money overall. So, how can retailers make the impact of their mobile app even more significant?

Working with dozens of the world's leading retailers, I've seen firsthand how great mobile customer experiences impact the success of the entire business. In this article, I'll share where retailers' biggest opportunities are, and outline five mobile app features that retail brands with prominent mobile customer experiences have introduced to increase sales, loyalty and retention.

The Power of Mobile Apps for Retail

A study by Wefi found that on average, shoppers who use retailers' apps visit the brands' stores one extra time a month. Kohl's showed the highest increase in customer visits by those who use their app, with 86 percent more visits than customers who don't use their app.

What can retailers do to gain a bigger competitive advantage using mobile? In our experience, retailers that create positive customer experiences -- with mobile at the heart -- see the biggest impact on their business overall.

Five Tactics to Improve Mobile Customer Experience

Commitment to taking your mobile customer experience from good to great will positively impact everything from loyalty to LTV, brand reputation and revenue.

Here are five mobile app features retailers can consider introducing to improve their mobile customer experience:

1. Build "store mode" into your app's functionality.

A handful of retailers have apps made for in-store shopping (such as Target), but creating an app that has a built-in "store mode" can create a better experience for customers because they aren't required to download a separate app to aid their in-store shopping experience. By consolidating all of your consumers' needs into one app, retailers can create a streamlined customer experience that simplifies the lives of their customers.

2. Replace manual chores with digital solutions.

People are busy. Apps that allow consumers to save time are cherished, which is why building features that replace manual chores with digital solutions is a smart move.

Walgreens sets a great example for how to do this well: It has replaced the manual (and menial) chore of calling in a prescription refill with the ability to request a refill directly through its mobile app by scanning the barcode on the pill bottle.

3. Implement in-app messaging.

As mentioned in the above example, people are busy and don't often have the time to call customer service or their pharmacist with questions. The flexibility in-app messaging brings empowers customers to contact brands when it's convenient for them and allows companies to set expectations for when they'll respond to inquiries.

Walgreens recognized the inconvenience of calling the pharmacy during business hours, so it created Pharmacy Chat for mobile app customers. Any customers with a question about their prescription can open Pharmacy Chat in the app to message a pharmacist directly.

4. Streamline the checkout process.

The introduction of mobile payment options has opened the door for retailers to make the checkout process less cumbersome by eliminating the need to pull out credit cards for each purchase.

Amazon and Kohl's are most notable for their investment in mobile payment capabilities. Amazon's one-touch checkout functionality is as frictionless and simple as it gets. And Kohl's' recently-introduced app feature "Kohl's Pay" simplifies the checkout process by automatically adding discounts and rewards points when the in-app credit card is scanned.

5. Invest in a functional in-app search.

Often overlooked, a functional in-app search is instrumental in helping customers find what they're looking for. A poor search experience can result in lost sales. According to Google, mobile search is a key signal that consumers are interested in buying. It found 92 percent of consumers who searched for a product on mobile made a related purchase.

Retail is undergoing a shift, and investing in a better digital experience is absolutely crucial to adapting to changing consumer expectations. While there is a wide array of features retailers can build into their mobile apps to boost their customer experience, improving in-app search, introducing mobile payment options, implementing in-app messaging, creating "store mode," and making chores digital are features we've seen work well for retailers with successful apps.

Regardless of what features are right for your specific customers, investing in a better mobile customer experience can help increase sales, app adoption and customer engagement, as well as allow you to fully capitalize on the benefits retail mobile apps have to offer.

Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for companies with a mobile app to listen to, engage, and retain their customers.

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