How a Retailer’s Mobile App Could be it’s Best Friend

This blog post originally appeared on Digby’s The Mobile Retail Blog, contributed by Caitlin New

Last weekend I went to a big box home goods store, lets call them Cot, Tub & Forever, armed with its mobile app and a few gift cards from the holidays that were burning a hole in my pocket. As an experienced shopper, PR/marketing communicator and retail technology professional—skills that could be my best or worst enemy while shopping—I shopped with an analytical eye on how the home goods retailer used its mobile app to improve my in-store experience.

I’d like to start with the ways this retailer’s mobile app is very helpful. If you’re a bride, groom, parent-to-be, college-bound student or other individual who’d create a registry, then this retailer’s mobile app is extremely useful. Gift-seekers can scan items in-store to add them to a registry that is manageable at any time, in or out of the store.  Conversely, if you’re there to shop from a registry for one of the above mentioned individuals, and you forgot that pesky registry print out, you can pull it up and access it on the mobile app.

You can also pretty easily search for products using the mobile app and see photos and basic product details. Have gift cards like I did? You can look up the balance using the app while you’re in the store so you can decide how crazy to be with the amount of toss pillows you toss in the cart. Speaking of carts, if that amazing ruffle pillow is not available in the store, just add it to your mobile cart and buy it right there.

However, while I found the mobile app an excellent baseline, I could not help but feel that if the app knew more about my context, including location, the experience could have been that much better. Here are a few ideas about where I think Cot, Tub & Forever can maximize the effectiveness of its app to make my experience even better.

Let me store my coupons and gift cards in the app. I get email and mail coupons often from this retailer and I always set them aside so I can use them when I’m feeling the home goods shopping itch. I also have received a number of gift cards from friends and family for Christmas because I recently became a new homeowner. However, I never seem to have the gift cards or coupons with me when I find myself in one of the stores! Mobile loyalty apps and wallets are becoming more and more visible in retail, and storing coupons and gift cards in the mobile app for use in-store is an easy step towards this capability. I most likely would have done my in-store shopping spree much earlier if I had been able to store the gift cards in my phone.

Communicate with me when I’m near the store. What better way to remind me of those coupons and gift cards than when I’m near the store? Installing location-based capabilities in a mobile app is the best way to reach me precisely when and where I’m in the position to make a purchase decision. The parking lot of Cot, Tub & Forever is usually shared with other retailers, and if I’m in the parking lot for something else, a friendly reminder that I’ve got ‘money’ burning a hole in my pocket…or app…goes a long way towards closing a sale!

Give me more product details—make it social. Having product search functions as a part of its app is a good start. However, when I’m in the store, I want to know more about the toss pillow I’m holding before I drop it in my basket. If ratings and reviews, product videos or recommended products were added to the product pages, I’d be much more likely to buy that pillow and its recommended throw.

Let me add customer profile preferences. I actually want to hear from my favorite retailers, and it would be amazing if our conversation was tailored to my preferences and shopping behavior. If Cot, Tub & Forever wanted to know which product categories interested me the most, I could easily tell them that I most often search for home décor, bed and bath more than any other category. They could adjust their marketing messages to me accordingly. Also, if they knew how frequently I shopped there, they could reward me with different levels of incentives to bring me back in.

Regardless of my mind constantly working in “work mode” while I shop, I did have a pleasant experience during my recent Cot, Tub & Forever visit. My living room sends its thanks for the new toss pillows that now give my couch the pop of color it needed.