Mobile commerce is the biggest shopping trend since the emergence of e-commerce, making it essential for businesses to find creative ways of engaging customers and boosting loyalty.
Brands searching for a mobile engagement solution turn to native apps. These apps are specifically designed for businesses with customised features such as push notifications and reminders.
Native apps allow regular customer interaction through daily deals, competitions and customer feedback. In addition to driving customer loyalty, native apps also help brands market their products and maximise sales.
Rewarding customer loyalty and creating a cashless payment system were the two priorities behind the creation of an app for cult gelato brand Gelato Messina. It was a big shift for a company that had relied on cash-only business for many years, says co-founder Declan Lee.
“We’ve been a cash business for a long time, but people are expecting to be able to pay without cash now and when you have cash-only, which some of our stores still do, people get quite upset,” he says.
The Messina App, which launched in October, lets users pay on their mobiles while in store and earn points for free product. It was a new take on traditional loyalty programs, says Lee.
“We were looking at different sorts of loyalty programs that also had mobile payment options and we sort of danced with a few of them and then decided on this particular one,” he says.
“We always wanted to do a loyalty program, but we didn’t want to do buy ‘ten get one free’, stamp the card. We wanted something a bit more interesting.
“The combination of the two worked really well for us; it kind of wrapped into one product that solved the solution for us of making people pay on their mobile and integrating the loyalty points, which I think both sides added together made it a really appealing app to use.”
Within just a few days of launch, the Messina app attracted more than 10,000 people. A $10 credit for the first wave of people to download the app helped stimulate the early take-up rate. Today, more than 30,000 Messina customers have downloaded the app.
But Lee says the real test will be if customers continue to use the app for their payments and to collect and redeem points. This is reliant on more than just a simple incentive program.
“To keep them loyal we have to keep it interesting,” he says.
“That’s what we like about the app – it allows us the flexibility of tailored offers. In the back office system we can target our whole database with a promotion or something that will be relevant to the majority of our customers.
“It’s a ‘surprise and delight’ function to target people who have been loyal to us. We want to keep them loyal by making it a little bit more exciting, so we’re planning to do things with products we don’t sell in every store. We can message everyone that has over a certain amount of points on the app and share exclusive offers like ‘claim one of these special products’.”
Only 8 per cent of Australian businesses have an app, according to PayPal’s mCommerce Index. Yet with the Index revealing 22 per cent of consumers use mCommerce more than once a week, brands not offering mCommerce platforms need to sit up and pay attention.
To take advantage of the convenience and time-saving qualities of mCommerce, mobile offerings must respond to evolving customer needs and always update them for a more fluid, intuitive experience.
Successful Australian businesses understand that customer loyalty is central to a small business’s success. Part of driving customer loyalty is understanding what your customers want and need, perhaps even before they know it themselves. Right now, Australian customers want frictionless mobile solutions - they want the way they interact with a business to be as easy as a few taps of their thumb.
A nation of savvy mobile users, our mobiles are now an essential part of our everyday life. If ability to shop and pay with ease on a mobile phone is now a standard customer expectation, it should also be an Australian business priority.
Optimising your business for mobile sales may have a strong impact on your business’s performance and influences the experience a customer has with your brand. The fewer steps put between the customer and the checkout, and the more we create an environment where the shopping experience is a seamless one, the more a brand can build loyalty with their customers.
It’s one piece of the loyalty pie, but it’s an important one.Download the PayPal mCommerce Index here
Here are Lee’s top tips on how to create an effective app:
Faster is smarter for both consumers and businesses. At peak times, when customers are lining up for their gelato, Lee says a speedy cashless payment system is paramount. Long loading times are a well-known purchase barrier for mCommerce users.
Brand your app
Maintaining brand identity across mobile offerings is key to loyalty. Customers need to know and trust exactly whom they are doing business with before telling others about their experience.
Branding was a clear goal in the development stages of the Messina app, Lee says.
“We wanted an app that would be Messina branded – we didn’t want to launch something that was Messina on another system,” he explains.
An immersive mobile offering is built on a simple, no-fuss customer experience. Overcoming purchase barriers, such as too many form fields, is key to a frictionless mCommerce transaction. PayPal’s report found 52 per cent of people felt frustrated by lots of form fields and 44 per cent were annoyed by payment sites that don’t work on mobile.
Lee advises other SMEs to engage a strong development team and communicate solid goals so functionality comes first.
“When we were working on the app there was a lot of back-and-forth on functionality, improving things and making new releases on the app before we actually launched it,” he says.
Mobile offerings need a clearly defined purpose, which should solve a problem and add value for customers.
It’s important to give them a reason to use an app and to engage with the brand, Lee says.
“For me, it was about waiting until we had a really good product that solved more than one problem,” he says.
Engineering customer loyalty through mobile offerings demands creativity and plenty of forethought. Businesses need to tap into their customer base and understand what their mCommerce needs are before developing solutions such as apps.
A successful mCommerce platform will delight customers with expediency and reward businesses with a return on investment.