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A story of a loyalty app: How mobile applications can keep improving your customer experience
The key to exceeding your customers' expectations is in their hands.
Having incorporated mobile applications into our daily lives, it’s extremely difficult to imagine a world without them. This is also why statistics such as those reporting that the average smartphone owner uses about 30 apps per month come as no surprise to anyone. At the same time, knowing that an ordinary retail customer is active in six or seven loyalty programs, we can reasonably assume that those 30 applications must include at least one loyalty app – though we should definitely expect more. Why is that information relevant? Because it shows that using loyalty apps has become a common element of our day-to-day lives.
In fact, some retailers consider their loyalty applications to be the best channel of communication for driving business. The prospect of benefits in the form of discounts and rewards helps companies convince their clients to download the apps and share their personal data – information which can later be used for creating personalized customer journeys and product offers that are more likely to hit the spot.
Yet, considering that we are living in a time where attention spans are becoming alarmingly shorter, companies cannot expect their clients to be highly engaged with their loyalty applications at all times. That is, unless they keep making them even more attractive and, in some ways, more addictive.
The important question is — how?
Nobody wants to use an app if the interface is poorly designed. An app should be user-friendly from the moment it’s launched. Of course, this does not change the fact that its visuals need to be attention-grabbing and in line with current trends; every entrepreneur knows that we all buy with our eyes. Nonetheless, companies still need to focus on keeping things practical.
To help retailers find that the right balance, today’s technology providers are now incorporating the latest artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms into their loyalty management systems. Thanks to those technological innovations, companies can find patterns in their customers’ behavior, analyze them, and use their findings to design a UI that meets their clients’ needs or allows users to adjust its layout without any IT expertise.
In-store shopping experience
Apart from being practical in terms of design, a modern loyalty app needs to be of use in the real world, meaning it has to serve a particular purpose (or several) in the shopping environment, such as providing customers with personalized, location-dependent product offers.
To do that, you can turn your app into a virtual guide that directs clients to designated store areas (indoor navigation), or one that presents them with new product offers using push messages whenever a customer goes by a given stand or any product-related object (proximity marketing).
Neither should we forget about mobile payments, which allow customers to buy products using discount coupons, loyalty points, or their stored credit cards. Today’s clients can also save a lot of time by placing their orders in advance, paying for products ahead of their arrival in the store. This functionality was perfected by Starbucks, whose application was recently found to be the most popular loyalty rewards app (48%) on its market. The app allows users to buy a cup of coffee while on their way to a selected Starbucks Café and pick up their order as soon as they get there – helping them to avoid waiting in line.
Don’t be under the impression that indoor experience is the only area in which an app can drive customer loyalty effectively. To make apps more popular among their target clients, companies have to find a way to engage them outside of retail stores. Here’s where gamification comes in. Badges, leaderboards, quizzes, mini-games – all of these can help form an emotional connection between a client and the app. Gamification elements also happen to be essential for introducing special offers that are exclusive to the most dedicated mobile app users. The list of possibilities goes on, and they’re all worth a try.
Last but not least, it is vital to provide the right customer support at any given moment. Whenever a customer is looking for a solution to a problem, the app should offer some valid options for self-service (FAQ or knowledge base, for example), and a means of interacting with a company representative either through a contact form or via live chat. Customers should also have the opportunity to rate the app and its services, so that a company can fix and improve it over time.
Loyalty apps are still evolving, becoming ever more technologically advanced solutions. Therefore, in order to become successful at driving better loyalty results, each company needs to begin by working with a well-known and trusted technology provider that can cover all of the abovementioned ground. Although choosing a provider may be easier said than done, the important thing is to find the one that meets your company’s needs and requirements.