The hard part about investing in app technology is knowing where to spend your dollars, deciphering if a new feature is a trend or a long-term asset and understanding your audience well enough to know what they want. Although we don’t have a crystal ball to see what the future of e-commerce will look like, we do know that when it comes to apps, consumers want innovative features.

Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm, recently conducted a survey of 505 e-commerce app users. The report found that consumers seek app features that go beyond browsing and buying products. Here is a summary of the most notable findings:

Top e-commerce app functions

The concepts of e-commerce apps are simple—relatable, usable, practical—but the execution is not—determining functionality, customization and personalization, software architecture. There are several important e-commerce app functions that are consumers want that you should consider as you either start to develop your app or continue to make it scalable.

Discounts and rewards

There’s nothing new about consumers wanting a deal, but how apps are doing this is quite innovative. For example, Walgreens offers Balance Rewards, where users can earn points based on their health and exercise habits. The iPhone Health app can track miles that are covered by walking, running or cycling, and every 1,000 points earned is $1 off a future purchase at Walgreens.

Dynamic pricing is another option for larger retail chains or companies with a spread-out customer base. Nik Sanghvi, head of U.S. sales and business development at Robosoft Technologies, said “there are already quite a few companies, including Amazon, which offer dynamic pricing based on the ZIP codes from where the items are being purchased or are being shipped to. There are many more possible segmentation layers based on user criteria, and this can bring the best deals possible for price-sensitive customers, as well as allow companies to sell items at a higher price for people who are less price-sensitive, thus making sales possible for both categories and maximizing revenues.”

Augmented reality (AR)

AR is when shoppers at a store receive real-time notifications about deals, customer reviews and other information to enhance their decision-making process. In the Clutch survey, only about 54% of customers said that they would use this feature, but nearly 60% of consumers want e-commerce apps that personalize the in-store experience. These two tools, however, go hand-in-hand.

“The AR kit is going to be a really big deal,” said Dan Healy, chief operating officer at Prolific Interactive. “It’s a great way to show how the mobile experience can literally exist in real life and help drive confidence to the user that the purchase they are making is a sound one. It takes a lot of risk out.”

For example, customers on Wayfair’s app can view how furnishings and décor would look like in their homes through WayfairView via the smartphone’s camera. Customers can virtually see the product in their own environment before committing to a purchase.

Interaction

Drew Papadeas, vice president of sales and marketing at Dom & Tom, believes that apps have an advantage over traditional emails and websites because of the customer interaction and conversations that are possible: “There is added accessibility, given that a user’s phone is always near them… With a mobile device, brands can push out information and engage users proactively, using things like targeted messaging based on users’ bio-behavior or what the weather is outside… It’s less about the visible interface and more about the interact being used to put messages in front of the consumer at the right time and place.”

Three e-commerce mistakes to avoid

If an app is hard to work, it won’t be used. We’ve all downloaded apps only to use them once and delete them later. Here are some ways to ensure that your app is on the right track.

Avoid friction

“You can have all these features in an app, but if it’s harder for me to place an order in the app than just picking up the phone or going into the store, the app is going to fail, and I’m not going to use it,” Andrew Gazdecki, CEO of Bizness Apps, said.

Don’t think your business is too small for an app

“I read an article recently that stated that Dominos is putting pizza places out of business because they’re able to offer convenience with their mobile app,” Gazdecki said. “The thing that small businesses need to realize is that this isn’t a fad… It’s something they need to implement in their business because their competition is eating away at them because they’re able to offer these powerful mobile solutions.”

Find an app’s clear purpose

Papadeas shares three guidelines to help keep your app on track: Pinpoint the business strategy behind the feature, determine the value it will bring to the user and understand the time and cost of the technology involved in making a feature happen.

 

Clutch’s survey shows that consumers are using e-commerce apps and they’re looking for features that go beyond browsing and buying. Consumers want an easy, frictionless and entertaining experiences when using apps. The final question isn’t whether or not your business should have an e-commerce app; it’s what will your app do?

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Kristen Herhold

Kristen Herhold is a content writer and marketer at Clutch, a B2B research firm in the heart of Washington, DC. Connect with her on LinkedIn, or reach out with any questions, comments or concerns at kristen@clutch.co or 202-840-6690.

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