Using Data to Optimize Retail Apps

August 23, 2018 Sun Sneed

If you could go back in time 40 years and tell people one day they would be able to shop from home using a cordless, pocket-sized telephone with an interactive screen, you would probably get a mixed bag of excitement, skepticism and indifference. 

Move forward to today, and mobile shopping as a retail fulfillment option is almost universally expected—at least by consumers.

Retailers have been a little slower off the block—despite having 45% of shopping trips include some mobile shopping, 78% of brands don’t offer shoppable mobile apps. 

This needs to change. 

With the wealth of data accessible to retailers (point-of-sale data, transaction history, inventory information, search terms, social media information), retailers have the power to not only meet, but exceed the expectations of what are or could be loyal, mobile customers. 

By focusing on capturing and capitalizing on data for mobile app personalization, testing, optimization and omnichannel, retailers can catch up to the increasing demand for mobile shopping experiences, propelling them forward as brands of choice for those eager mobile shoppers.

Personalization

Customers know what they like. And if you’ve interacted with them enough, then you should know what they like as well. A key component of replicating brick-and-mortar clienteling is to be able to personalize to the interests, wants and needs of each individual customer.

You have plenty of data. Put it to good use.

Here are some ways you can do this:

Product Recommendations

Amazon got this one right. From the “Inspired by your shopping trends” cards to the “Customers who viewed this also viewed” suggestions, Amazon works to put the products most relevant to your needs right in front of you.

Combining and applying transaction history data from both online and offline sources can help you infer your customer’s purchasing power and interests, allowing you to market the most relevant products and increase the rate of conversion. 

In-app Search

92% of consumers who searched for a product on mobile made a related purchase. Applying search algorithms that incorporate popular products and even customer transaction history will allow customers to find what they’re looking for more easily, making it that much easier to convert. 

Predictive Analytics

It’s amazing how data can help predict purchasing patterns. A powerful example of this is how Target accurately deduced that a teen girl was pregnant even before her father did—simply based on data from her shopping patterns.

Shopping patterns allow you to segment customers and not just recommend new products, but predict the need for new ones. Companies selling perishable commodities, such as groceries, batteries or even diapers, use predictive modeling to reach out to users when their products may be close to expiring or running out. 

Testing & Optimization

There’s a sweet spot for getting your content just right in order to optimize mobile conversions. Analytics and multivariate testing data can help you identify the perfect content to convert users. 

Customer Behavior Analytics

Knowing how your customers move through your native application towards conversion is crucial. Mobile app analytics allow you to understand points of friction—using exit rates, uninstalls and churn—as well as areas of success—using conversions, purchases, successful searches, etc. 

A longer app user session is not necessarily a better app user session as they might be having trouble finding a certain product—or worse, they might be having trouble checking out. Sometimes getting a customer through the checkout process as quickly as possible is the best way to optimize mobile shopping. 

Analyzing consumer behavior within your app can help you learn what the points of friction or largest areas of success are in order to optimize the experience and drive more conversions. 

Search Analytics

There are many reasons why customers end up not buying your products. But one of the main ones could be you just don’t have what they’re looking for. Fortunately, customers are most likely using your in-app search capability to search for their product of choice. They’re literally telling you what they want to buy.

Capturing and analyzing these queries, including their frequency and the rate of conversion, can provide highly valuable insight as to what products your customers are expecting to find in your store.

A/B or Multivariate Testing

Not all content is created equal. Some content will click better with users (no pun intended). Using mobile application multivariate testing will allow you to gather analytics data about various versions of content, ultimately deciding which one to retire and which to adopt.

Omnichannel

To your customer, siloes don’t exist. They don’t see the different departments of your brand, nor do they divide your brand up into digital channels. To them, what they experience in the app should flow seamlessly into what they experience on a desktop and in a brick-and-mortar store.

Mastering the omnichannel experience is no easy feat, but it is paramount to enhancing the customer experience and increasing your bottom line. 

A/B or Multivariate Testing

A 2016 study showed that mobile devices were responsible for 66% of digital retail visits, but only 51% of online sales were completed in mobile devices. Mobile phones only constituted 18% of online sales. The lesson here—make your shopping carts omnichannel. 

For many consumers, product research begins on mobile devices, and then moves to desktop for the final purchase. Allowing consumers to maintain their shopping cart/wish list items across devices will increase your chances of conversion.

Real-time Inventory

Brick-and-mortar shopping and online shopping are not entirely separate entities. Or at least, they shouldn’t be. Customers have the option to buy in-store, ship to home; buy online, pick up in-store; buy in-store, ship from distribution center; buy online, ship from store; reserve online, pick up in-store; buy anywhere, ship anywhere; and almost every other combination you can imagine.

Showrooming and webrooming are key influencers in customer purchasing decisions, and are important components to an omnichannel strategy. Displaying inventory data on your digital properties—namely availability and location data—could motivate your customers to make quicker purchases on limited stock or make an in-store visit for a product they are interested in.

Mobile is Now

If current patterns continue, retail is going to continue moving into the mobile space, whether or not your organization decides to jump on board. 

Native applications and mobile web are not the future of retail—they are the now of retail. Capitalizing on the data and architecture you already have will put your products directly in front of the people that need the information most—your customers.

For additional guidance on which metrics to measure in order to maximize your mobile experience, refer to the Mobile Is the New Black eBook

Black Friday Going Mobile

Around 30% of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas, making the holiday season both the holy grail and the stumbling block of many retail companies.

Mobile is making its way into the holiday season. On Black Friday 2016, $3.34 billion was spent online, with $1.2 billion being attributed to mobile. That’s 33% growth year-over-year for mobile revenue, and was the first time ever mobile sales exceeded $1 billion.

Native applications are becoming a key differentiator for holiday shoppers. Shoppers use mobile both at home and while waiting in line at stores to stay in the loop on the latest deals. To get your slice of the holiday pie, your native applications and mobile web need to be up to snuff. 

Validate Your Mobile App Data

Your ability to personalize, optimize and provide seamless omnichannel experiences is dependent upon the integrity of your data. Garbage in, garbage out. 

ObservePoint’s patented AppAssurance solution validates the dynamic and unique tag implementations of mobile applications, ensuring the data they collect is accurate and that tagging strategies are executed according to design.

Beyond validating analytics tags, one of the key functions of AppAssurance is to monitor critical user paths within an app. Mobile application stakeholders can upload their app to the ObservePoint platform and, using an intuitive user journey builder, can map out a user path by navigating through the app as a user would. AppAssurance records and saves this journey, and then simulates user traffic through that critical user path, notifying stakeholders of any hiccups along the way.

Request an AppAssurance audit to see how this powerful tool can validate the functionality of your app.

About the Author

Sun Sneed

Sun is currently the Senior Product Manager at ObservePoint. She is passionate about internet products and marketing. Sun conceptualizes and drives change in an impactful and sustainable way. Sun currently leads product innovation for AppAssurance, ObservePoint’s mobile app tag and data quality platform. In past roles, Sun has contributed to the product innovation of Deutsche Telekom, T-Online International AG, and Fast Multimedia AG.

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