It's time for apps to think inside the stores rather than just getting people there. Consider these approaches.
It's happening everywhere you look - in restaurants, on the train, during meetings, and even in the restroom. People are doing all sorts of things on their mobile phones; they are checking email, reading news, gaming, searching, occasionally browsing branded content and shopping. They are multi-tasking and being more productive during their downtime - what I call "time shifting," a term borrowed from the DVR industry.
A key challenge for us marketers is to shift this precious time in our favor. That's why larger sums of money are now pouring into mobile advertising in an attempt to distract users from their current tasks. Personally I do not advocate paid interruption marketing such as mobile banner advertising, so many others in the industry and I have advocated mobile marketing that delivers brand messages more as a service or as a branded app that delivers utility. The popularity of a branded app will, in many cases, depend on how effective it performs as a time-shifting tool that increases its users' productivity.
In this article I will focus on time-shifting for branded apps for business with physical stores. This is because 1) mobile is the medium that can uniquely integrate online with offline brand experiences, and have already started to transform local commerce, 2) this is a segment where I see huge opportunities to improve customer service because very few branded apps are actually delivering some much-needed in-store customer service. The current physical store/mobile integration of most apps is quite superficial and most often (at best) involves only a store locator.
It's time to for apps to think inside the stores rather than just getting people there.
Addressing Customer Pain Points
As I reflect on my bad brand experiences, they typically happen on the phone or in-store. What do I mean by "bad"? Very simply these are bad or bland (little or no value added) experiences related to a brand that can easily negate all of the good experiences from the same brand. Generally these events have to do with waiting or bad information.
Thanks to smartphones, I can now time-shift and turn in-store waiting time and lack of information into more productive time, but I started to wonder if there is a way for us to turn some of the in-store bottlenecks into mobile service opportunities - features that users can perform when they have downtime elsewhere?
My list of top pain points:
In-Store Experiences to Be Enhanced by Mobile
Looking at the above pain points, it appears to me that brand retailers can address many of them in their branded mobile apps and greatly improve in-store customer service as a result. Some possible feature enhancements:
Seeing that many business websites still only have addresses without maps on their store locator pages, doing what I've described above may seem like a stretch. It's not.
San Francisco start-up GoPago has already launched a popular platform for merchants to easily deploy such services to reduce the amount of time customers need to spend in-store. Apps like these will fundamentally change customer's in-store experience. Seeing the success and demand of such services, I anticipate many retailers upgrading their mobile apps to help their customers save more time and reduce frustration in the coming months.
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Andy started his digital marketing career as an interactive designer in 1996. Later he spent 10 years with MRM Worldwide in various roles and countries including web producer in Los Angeles, Asia Pacific data and analytics account director in Hong Kong, and director of operations in Shanghai. He was most recently general manager of MRM's Hong Kong office. In 2010 he founded I-Influence to help marketers more effectively leverage social media to grow their online influence, and to increase brand loyalty and advocacy. As CEO of I-Influence, he leads an innovative team in developing marketing technologies at the convergence of social media, customer analytics, CRM, and mobile. A native of Taiwan, Andy has lived half of his life in the U.S. and the other half in Asia.
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