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The Secret to Launching a Successful Retail App

The Secret to Launching a Successful Retail App

The retail industry was among the first to truly embrace the immense possibilities of the internet, and that forward-thinking eagerness has made life easier for everyone.

Posted by: Daniel Boterhoven on Sat Dec 18

Business DevelopmentMarketingProduct Development

Today, ecommerce is not only commonplace but also increasingly dominant: sellers save time, buyers save money, and everyone can avoid the crowds.

With the advent of near-endless opportunity for the discerning shopper, though, came a pressing need for retailers to find ways to keep potential buyers hooked. When it’s trivial to search everywhere for the cheapest price and buy in seconds from an unfamiliar company, customer loyalty is vastly harder to achieve.

Enter retail apps. When someone downloads a retail app, they make a minor but significant commitment to it — they view it as worthy of being kept in their app list instead of just in their browsing history. And since that level of access allows the retailer to provide a more sophisticated service, it can spur the mobile user to return to that specific business.

But when you develop a mobile app, there’s no guarantee that it will achieve success, even if it’s stacked with industry-leading functionality. You need to go about things in the right way. To that end, I’m going to cover some of the things you should do to launch a successful retail app, then wrap up with the secret to the whole endeavor. Let’s get to it.

Provide a killer function

With 5G on the horizon and the average smartphone capable of maintaining a speedy data connection at almost all times, the incentive to actually download an app has gone down significantly since the early days of the mobile revolution. If you want someone to go to the effort of downloading your app and giving it a prominent position in their digital bubble, you need to give them a compelling reason.

The best way to do this is to provide a unique selling point in the form of some sort of function that can only be achieved (or achieved with optimal effect) through your app. That way, mobile users will feel justified in leaving it installed — after all, who knows when they might have cause to use that function?

While such a function could (in principle) be almost anything, you should go for something that will make the process of buying from you somewhat easier. The most popular option at the moment is AR previewing: a furniture retailer can log all the dimensions of its products, and its retail app can use a phone’s camera to virtually place those products within a real-world setting.

Support rich personalisation

Mobile ecosystems offer amazing convenience. Apps and websites sharing data automatically, integrating in ways that allow mobile users to achieve their goals with minimal friction. Think about how much time social logins can save: you can visit a site you’ve never used before, log in through Google or Facebook, and place an order without needing to enter any fresh details.

On top of that, they allow a practical measure of customization. You can set various preferences about the types of product you want to see, the emails and alerts you want to receive, and the communication methods you prefer for handling any support issues.

Consequently, a great retail app will seem to deepen in value over time. The more someone uses it, the more they’ll become adept at navigating it, and the more accustomed they’ll get to its feature set and search system. It will feel comfortable and familiar. Fail to provide this kind of intuitive experience through your retail app, and it will sink like a stone.

Carry out enthusiastic promotion

You could have the best retail app in the world, but it wouldn’t matter if no one knew about it. And it isn’t enough to half-heartedly make a note on your homepage that you now have a retail app — you need to make some noise and show that you’re confident enough in the quality of your app to really invest in promoting it.

To do this, you’ll need to use social media channels, relevant forums, and your built-up email database as well as your website. Start by giving it pride of place as the hero image on your homepage (you might want to offer an incentive, such as a 10% discount code for anyone who downloads the app), then reach out to your audience and sell it to them.

Next, create a compelling email campaign to convert as many existing customers as possible. There are ways to approach email marketing that make it possible to use smart email targeting, so look into them and think about the best times to push your app: after a purchase, perhaps? You could use a message along the lines of “Want to make your next purchase even faster and save 10%? Download our new app!” to give it some impact.

Explain why you designed your app, what it’s intended to achieve, and why it’s worth their time. As in retail in general, focus on benefits, not features. How will it save people time and money? How does it compare to your competitors’ retail apps? If you don’t seem to believe that your app is worth using, your customers certainly won’t.

The secret to retail app success

Well, I promised the secret to launching a successful retail app in the title, so I couldn’t realistically avoid getting to it — and here we are. The big secret to launching a successful retail app is… iteration. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the key to everything, and I’ll explain why. You need iteration for each of the following:

  • Design. You start with some basic ideas, then work on them until you have a refined design. Whenever someone decides to simply go with their first idea, the results are unlikely to be promising.
  • Promotion. Not every message is going to land: in fact, it’s very rare that a message will resonate. This is why you keep trying new things. New angles, new phrasing, new channels, new audiences.
  • Development. The first version of Amazon’s mobile app barely resembled the version available today. An app is something to be tweaked and updated over time, not pushed out fully-formed and left to stagnate.

Remember this above everything else: you don’t need to get everything right the first time. Your first version might be a miserable failure — indeed, your first app might altogether be a failure. What matters most is how you respond to setbacks. Do you give up, or do you take them on the chin, learn from them, and redouble your efforts? If you can get a little better with every attempt, your chances of success will keep doing up until you make it.

Is there a mind-blowing secret that makes it possible to guarantee that a retail app will become an immediate and lasting success? No, there isn’t — but there’s a secret to reaching that point of success eventually, and it’s smart iteration. Keep trying, keep improving, and you’ll achieve your goals.


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