We should — should probably being the keyword — all know this by now, but mobile is huge for retail. We’re now even to the point where Deloitte is writing long-form content about “the rise of mobile influence.” Mobile is part of an ecosystem, though — one of the big facets of its rise has been the corresponding boost to in-store sales, in large part through tactics like location based messaging or specific offers in-app that are only good if redeemed in store. The philosophy there has always been a bit of an up-sell; if you get them in, they might want to buy lots more, whereas within the app, they might only get 1 or 2 things.

But that leads to an interesting question: it seems like almost everyone has an app. Almost everyone has an Instagram profile (well, within reason for specific brands). Almost everyone is doing something with Facebook, even if interaction with brand Facebook seems to be declining. A lot of people are doing push. Brands have run through the other strategies and there are admittedly a lot of similarities between how different companies are approaching their customers on mobile.

Seems logical that the main way to stand out would be to create customer loyalty. The best brands have been doing that since the dawn of time, and/or the dawn of mobile, which for some people might be the same thing. (That was a joke!)

But in a sea of endless choice where a lot of brands piggy-back on strategies they’ve seen rivals do (or heard at trade shows), how do you stand out? What features actually drive loyalty?

A rundown:

1. Good UX

home depot

This is a baseline brick in the loyalty loft you’re trying to build. No one is going to regularly return to an app with crappy UX. Don’t try to do too much. Simplify. What do your users want to find? Let them find that quickly. You learn that through analyzing analytics and user flow. Get them to what they want quickly, and be intuitive about the navigation. Simple is better. People’s time is a premium and attention spans have been dropping for generations. Nothing too fancy here, friends.

2. Human Touch


Just because they’re engaging with your app, doesn’t mean it has to feel robotic. Making the interaction feel humanized by having some personality in your messaging will go a long way to keep users engaged. People still discuss the darn Microsoft paper clip from the 1990s, you know? Have a real “brand voice.”

Think about how MailChimp is. If you’ve ever used MailChimp, what are some of the initial associations you have with it? Cool pictures, funny little transition phrases when you’re moving around in-app, clean design, cute monkey, “Mail Kimp” from Serial, etc. Stand out as a brand.

3. Personalized Offers

nordstrom rack

You knew personalization had to be on this list, right? For retailers, this is especially key. Customers want to feel special and have grown to appreciate the 1:1 attention they receive from brands like Trunk Club and Stitch Fix. Make sure you’re collecting key behavioral and profile information about your customers (across every channel they engage with you on) so you understand their style preferences and browsing/purchase history. Serving up tailored offers based on the above will go a long way with customer retention and conversion.

4. Infuse the Digital & Physical Worlds


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Brick and mortar is slowly dying, yes — as we were writing this, Mattress Firm was about to go bankrupt — but creating an ecosystem between “app” and “store” can be valuable twice over. Below are a few ways to infuse the two worlds:

  • Drive them into the store with location-based messaging
  • Have ‘in-store’ app features like store maps, scanners, and more
  • Have a mobile pay option
  • Have your app act as a rewards card

5. Simplification

With all the advanced technology mobile marketers have access too, it’s pretty easy to get carried away with app features and functionality. And while you certainly want to have cool features that impress your users, don’t forget about why apps were created in the first place: to complete a task.

For retail apps, the task you want users to complete is exploring and purchasing merchandise. Everything you build in your app should help to make this as seamless a journey as possible.

What else have you seen help build loyalty in-app?

Read more:

The 3 Retail App Features Consumers Want Most

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