Ten best practices for mobile retail apps

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Getting an app onto a customer’s phone isn’t an easy process. The majority of Americans and Europeans download just one app a month. That’s not just paid apps, that includes free apps as well. And even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually use your app: over 70% of downloaded apps are never used after the day they’re downloaded. In fact, most people spend almost all their time using just five apps - typically social media, messaging, news or simple entertainment apps. So if you want your customers to download, and, more importantly, keep using your mobile retail app, it needs to be excellent. Adequate apps just don’t cut it. Too many mobile retail apps are seriously lacking in the UX department. What works well on the Web, or on a large screen, doesn’t necessarily translate well to mobile, or in particular, to an app. Your mobile customers, especially your app customers, are different. They’re usually not casually browsing or comparison shopping. They know what they want, and they just want to find it, buy it, and move along. They’re already regular customers, and they’ll keep coming back as long as you keep providing great value and great service: you don’t need to upsell them and maximize the revenue from this specific visit. Fundamentally, the UX and technology in a mobile retail app needs to achieve two things. One, make people excited and two, get out of their way so it’s super streamlined and lets them accomplish what they really want to do - find inspiration, find the products they want, and make purchases. 1. Focus on search and CTA. Speed counts, so take account of the small size of the mobile screen and streamline the search and buying process. Don’t clutter up the search results or buying process with ads, special deals or anything that takes them away from what they’re doing. Instead, use your knowledge of the individual customer to provide them with easy access to the products they’re actually looking for. The faster they can find what they want and see what they need to do, the more likely they are to buy something. 2. Make payment super easy. Checkout shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. Don’t make a customer enter their credit card details or delivery address more than once. Store this information, or offer them alternatives such as PayPal. 3. Give them plenty of information about the product. Most importantly, allow them to zoom images and see clearly what’s on offer. They’re probably not going to be comparison shopping with your competitors, so tell them everything they need to know to make a purchase decision. 4. Use mobile features effectively. Creative use of location, camera, or voice input will make your app more fun as well as more powerful. If you can make the user smile or gasp, they’re more likely to come back, and to tell their friends about you. 5. Design around sharing and saving. Purchases, particularly large purchases, may take time, and may involve more than one person in a household. Make it easy for your customers to save items they’re interested in, and to share potential purchases with family members or friends via social media, messaging, or other apps. 6. Design for in-store shopping. 82% of people use their phones to shop while they’re actually in a physical store. They may be looking for additional product information or reviews, or they may be checking to see if an item is actually in stock or where it’s located. In some cases, they’re looking at delivery options so that they don’t have to carry a bulky or fragile item home. Assume that your mobile customer may actually be right in your store, and provide them with additional services to enhance their visit. 7. Give them the widest possible range of delivery options. Not all customers want their stuff delivered to their home. A growing proportion of customers - over 75% - want the ability to buy something online and pick it up from a store the same day, often within a few hours. More and more customers expect an option for express shipping. 8. Use notifications wisely. Customers love it when you tell them how their order is progressing. They love it when you tell them about a product or deal they’re genuinely interested in. But if you bombard them with unwanted notifications, they’ll soon get fed up and they’ll delete your app. Tailor your communications carefully, and allow them to customize what they get from you. 9. Respect their battery life, storage and bandwidth. Play nice with others. Your app isn’t the most important thing on your customer’s device. If your app is hogging power, constantly performing unnecessary background tasks, or pulling down excessive amounts of data, you’re just asking to get uninstalled. Keep your app lean and efficient. 10. Update, but not too often. The mobile world is changing fast, and you need to keep your app up to date in terms of features, UI, UX, and security. On the other hand, don’t let your developers keep constantly pushing out tiny, unimportant updates. If it seems like your app needs updating every time the user switches their phone on, they’ll get irritated. Once a month is usually sufficient.

Obviously, just having an excellent app isn’t enough to secure customer loyalty: you need to back it up with great products at the right price, reliable, fast delivery, and first-class customer support. But the quality of your mobile retail app is an essential part of your overall customer experience and deserves your attention.