Why Building a Mobile Retail App is like Developing a Content Strategy

Retail apps used on mobile phones help brands

In retail marketing, content creation may not even be on the radar. Retailers are sales-driven people greatly focused on key performance metrics like conversion rates. But as mobile technology changes alongside consumer behavior, we begin to see “content” taking on greater meaning across the board.

Retail apps have become key touch points for retail marketers with their prospective and current customers. These mobile apps keep retailers top of mind and increase engagement. But, similar to how content marketing began as a way to get in front of buyers in search results, mobile apps have quickly become only about the sale and not the user experience. That’s why savvy retail marketers must learn from the content industry’s mistakes and put the customer first with its digital initiatives.

Retailers Misuse Mobile Applications

Retailers are hyper focused on developing mobile applications that increase their engagement opportunities. These businesses funnel significant resources toward creating apps that assist showrooming and sales comparison practices, but they lack long-term vision. Content marketers learned this the hard way by pumping out SEO content strictly for greater visibility. When users clicked on links in search results expecting actual value, they were left dumbfounded. The same experience is taking place in retail app marketing.

Applications packed with sales-driven copy will most likely generate high abandonment rates, while retail apps that go beyond sales will build loyalty that impacts the bottom line. According to Colloquy’s “7 Trend-Driven Resolutions for Loyalty Marketers in 2014,” the average consumer downloads 26 mobile apps, but only uses six of them on a daily basis. Chances are people won’t turn to a conversion-focused app regularly when other options provide richer overall experiences. Therefore, retailers must start thinking like content marketers when developing mobile applications with long-term vision.

Loyalty Features Enrich the Mobile Experience

Retailers must start with the consumer. Understanding why a user should feel compelled to check an application daily can go a long way in proving ROI for the entire project. For example, is a consumer more apt to check an app every day to compare prices, or is she more likely to engage with one that provides her with timely information, powerful video content, and built-in communication functions? The answer should be obvious.

A mobile app can feature a way to convert, but that alone cannot be its purpose. Starbucks is a great example of a business using mobile technology correctly. The company’s loyalty app allows customers to purchase items at its various stores via their smartphones, but it also has an in-app inbox where users can receive special offers, free downloads, and other personalized messages. This allows Starbucks to send brand-aligned content to each loyalty member, enriching the mobile experience and turning the app into an information resource.

The Similarities in Mobile-App and Content Strategy Development

Building a loyalty retail app starts with understanding the audience who will eventually use the program every day. Consider what encourages users to open Facebook or Instagram regularly: it’s the content they will see on the other side.

For retail marketing teams focused on building apps that showcase their products, it’s essential to have enough content to feature or else the app becomes a static look book, not an experience. For example, a sports apparel store can employ local reporters to write snackable snippets of content about local games, and then publish that content to the retail app. Community members will learn to check the app for quick updates and scores, while also stopping to read more product-focused posts.

A technology retailer can use its app to feature how-to videos for its customers. Almost everyone has purchased a device at least once only to get home and be completely unaware of how to operate the device. What if there was an application that offered easy-to-follow advice through a visual content format, and included an option to call and speak with a customer support representative. This application would become the central information hub, connecting the offline and online worlds for the retailer.

These apps may not seem like profound inventions, but with smarter overall marketing support they can grow into strong loyalty-driving programs. Retailers with clear aspirations of developing mobile apps to keep their brands in the minds of their customers must employ content teams to overlook engagement metrics, develop updated collateral to populate the apps, and promote them across social and search. Without a content team in place, who will know these apps even exist?

The Lessons Retailers Have Learnt

Content may not be a huge part of retail marketing yet because businesses continue to believe the practice is too text driven. Content marketing has grown to encompass all forms of media as long as it’s focused on the end user. In 2014, retailers will begin to realize, just like content marketers have over the past two years, that a well-developed strategy that puts the customer experience first will ultimately drive the results that make the biggest impact. So it’s a matter of retailers embracing changes they have brushed off in the past.

Ted Karczewski is the Marketing Content Specialist at Skyword and the Managing Editor of the Content Standard (TCS). He oversees the editorial direction of TCS, and focuses on engaging readers through compelling stories. Ted has a background in print journalism and B2B content marketing, working both for agency clients and brands. He has launched four websites, from concept to execution, for businesses like Skyword, the Content Standard, Brafton, and ContentLEAD. Follow him on Twitter

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