Following news that retailers who invest in their own shopping app see over half of European mobile sales take place in-app, John Gillan, MD for UK and Northern Europe at Criteo looks at how in-app advertising and retargeting helps drive sales.
Apps are a goldmine for retailers. Customers shopping in an owned platform, which can be tailored to the preferences of both the retailer and the shopper: preferential product listings, branding, persistent profiles, offers and sales – what’s not to love? But when faced with challenge of convincing shoppers to download and keep their app in a world where apps are competing for space and many lose 75% of users in the first three days, retailers need to ensure they’re delivering something of actual value.
Statistics show that this opportunity is too good for retailers to pass up on. Criteo research found that retailers who invest in their own shopping app see over half of European mobile sales take place in-app, and shoppers who buy on app are both more likely to convert and spend more. With the likes of Amazon and eBay looking to take a bigger slice of the pie through marketplace models, nurturing such a high value channel is a no brainer.
The first challenge facing retailers is how do they convince someone to download their app in the first place? Even as phones increase in storage space, the competition to be pride of place on someone’s homescreen has grown fierce. 2017 research from App Annie found that the average smartphone user used 30 apps per month, and around nine apps per day; however, the figure for shopping apps was around 1.5 per month. Being a downloaded retail app is a valuable position to be in, but also an exclusive one.
Even after being downloaded, it’s a fight for survival. It’s commonplace for apps to lose users rapidly for a number of reasons: too many notifications, slow loading times, poor user interface. The slightest issue can cause an app to be sacrificed for a new app, music, or to save battery, even if it does offer a strong shopping experience to users.
The problem lies in what benefits the app offers over mobile web. Some popular apps, such as Uber force their services to be used through app by redirecting to app stores from the web page; others like Facebook and Google Maps have hugely increased functionality which mobile web doesn’t or can’t offer. When trying to decide on what apps to keep, it’s often not a hard choice between having something which doesn’t work without an app and heading back to the browser to shop, or keeping your latest shopping app.
Use your data
To combat this, retailers need to use the wealth of data available to them to ensure they’re providing the consummate shopping experience. Any app user is expecting personalisation just by virtue of having an app – throwing up a standard home screen full of irrelevant items or news is sure to lead to deletion.
In-app advertising and retargeting is key engage shoppers on your own app. Even as a shopper downloads and browses your app, they may have previously shopped with you, which can be used to tailor recommendations. When a user then moves onto using another app, in-app advertising can be used to apply this data to reengagement, helping to drive continued use.
Retailers also need to streamline product feeds and overviews. Mobile usage has risen, meaning screen size has fallen. As opposed to mobile web, where formats are at the mercy of a browser, retailers have the opportunity to use their data optimise feeds to their products to match the app user through paired products, appropriate product images and correct descriptions. Netflix changes the thumbnails for shows based on browsing preference – why shouldn’t retailers?
Stand out from the crowd
Beyond just using data to personalise their app offerings, retailers need to find a way to provide a service that is as indispensable as Uber or Facebook to secure their position. For example, offering users recommended products not only to purchase, but also to add to their favourites. This helps to build a shopper’s faith and reengagement with an app, and can be followed up with notifications about when that item is on sale, or other similar items.
There are other, more catchy ways to demonstrate an app’s value. Asos recently added search-by-photo functionality to its app, allowing users to upload photos featuring clothing they liked to get recommendations of similar clothing Asos has in stock. Florist Bloom & Wild allows for users to synch their mobile contacts list to the app and receive reminders and suggestions for birthday and anniversary gifts.
While it would be easy to call these gimmicks, they provide genuinely memorable and useful services to app users to enhance the shopping experience. Sending a birthday offer email to a potential customer can seem overbearing – asking a user in an app to share their birthday is much more friendly.
“App store” is a term that everybody recognises, but it’s time for retailers to step up and make sure they’re running their own app-stores and offering users a truly personalised and user-friendly channel to shop on. The space is extremely competitive, but armed with data and a focus on the customer, retailers stand to gain a loyal and valuable customer base.
By John Gillan
MD for UK and Northern Europe