Consumers are spending more and more time on their mobile devices, using them to manage and enhance every aspect of their lives. From business and entertainment to health and finances, we have come to rely on apps to get things done. Their ubiquity, convenience, and speed have made them the go-to solution for all kinds of tasks, including buying things.
In response to the ever-growing momentum driving adoption of the mobile lifestyle, savvy brands are investing in developing their own native apps. These unique apps run on specific platforms—IOS and Android—and make use of the built-in features to deliver highly personalized and customer-centric experiences. These experiences, in turn, drive customer engagement and loyalty and improve critical growth KPIs such as AOV, ARPU, and LTV.
While native apps have proven to be a very viable solution for deepening customer relationships, they haven’t gone mainstream the way a typical mobile-responsive website has. The truth is, there’s a lot that goes into developing a successful native app. But for those brands willing to put in the effort and resources, the ROI can be substantial.
Because we’re still in the relatively early stages of the native app revolution, most brands are still operating at the Foundational or Enhanced level in terms of the sophistication of their apps. An elite group of innovators, however, have already taken their native app experiences to impressive heights. We share a few examples of these native app superstars in our recent POV, Unlocking Customer Loyalty with Native Apps:
At the advanced level, apps leverage recently released consumer technologies to unlock new and unique user experiences. At the moment, advanced strategies might make use of technologies like Voice (Siri, etc.), AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality); but it’s important to note that in this category the goal line is always moving. As new technology emerges, consumer expectations change—once it was enough for an app to tell users which city they are in; now they want to know which aisle they’re in. You have to keep up.
In addition to pure technology plays, the most successful advanced apps also have a strong strategic foundation. For instance, many use gamification strategies to power loyalty programs that use interactions, purchases, social media activities, and other behaviors as currency to increase engagement, reward highly engaged customers, and deepen the customer/brand relationship in fun and motivating ways. Some brands also harness mobile technology to deliver app-only features that they can sell to users as premium benefits. YouTube does this with their subscription-based YouTube TV service, which allows music to play in the background even when a video isn’t in full-screen mode.
Another common trait of successful advanced apps is that they are positioned as the centerpiece of a brand’s strategy, not an add on. This is important because it demonstrates a brand’s commitment to creating a complete mobile experience that can support not only the transactional elements of their business, but also the relationship-building elements. Six Flags is an excellent example of a brand that rolled its entire experience—navigation, payments, wifi access, food ordering, etc.—into their app.
Advanced Element Example 1:
Starbucks: Reinventing a Brand Around Mobile Ordering
Seeing the clear trends around mobile ordering in the QSR (quick-serve restaurant) market, Starbucks has gone all in on several mobile-centric initiatives. The global coffee chain has its own app, which allows users to order ahead and pay with their phone. The app also integrates with Starbucks Rewards, the brand’s loyalty program, which has more than 16 million active members, who collectively account for approximately 40 percent of all transactions. In addition, Starbucks also delivers to customers in 8 major cities via a mobile-powered partnership with Uber eats.
Advanced Element Example 2:
Founded by legendary cycling instructor, Ruth Zukerman, Flywheel Sports delivers a next generation cycling experience in studios all across the country. Never a company to stand still, they partnered with Rightpoint to recreate the competitive and inspirational in-studio experience via a mobile app. Bringing this unique and motivating experience to life for remote participants requires an app that could stream Flywheel classes both live and on-demand. The solution also leverages a coordinated suite of hardware and software technologies to enable features like overlaying the class leaderboard on the display and streaming audio/visual content through a rider’s home theatre system. The result is a seamless and highly engaging experience that has helped Flywheel grow their brand, reach more customers, and establish themselves as an industry leader.
Advanced Element Example 3:
The Boston Beer Company used an AR-enabled native app to make some very effective marketing noise that drove awareness and even adoption of their Angry Orchard hard cider brand. The app uses AR technology and machine learning to deliver a unique experience that teaches users about pairing different Angry Orchard cider blends with different foods. After scanning a bottle of Angry Orchard hard cider (a technological feat in itself, given the number of cider varieties and endless environment variables to consider), the app displays an AR video featuring Ryan Burk, head cider maker, with some recipe suggestions. The app also has the ability to virtually transport users to the orchard in Walden, NY where the apples for Angry Orchard hard cider are grown. This immersive, 360-degree portal provides an intimate look at the sights and sounds of the orchard.
These inspirational examples show just what can be done with the most advanced application of native app features and functionality. The brands behind these native apps are forging new territory by creating new ways to engage and empower their customers. Of course, if you’re just beginning to consider a native app for your own brand, these stories might be a little intimidating.
Not to worry. As we discussed in the first two parts of this series—on the Foundational and Enhanced phases of native app development—the nice thing about native apps is that they naturally lend themselves to an iterative development approach. You really don’t have to do everything at once. The important thing is just to get started, because if the latest consumer trends are right, mobile is only going to become more important in the commerce space.
To learn more about what’s driving this shift, what your customers really want, and how you can use a native app to drive your customer loyalty, download the full Unlocking Customer Loyalty with Native Apps POV.