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.


SXSW Interactive 2013: Mobile First

This blog is reposted from Digby’s The Mobile Retail Blog.

By Kirsty Hughan, Digby

Austin, Texas has just finished playing host to one of the most innovative and forward-thinking technology conferences in the world. South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi)  is a five day conference and trade show dedicated to the advancement of digital creativity and hosts sessions by industry leaders addressing cutting-edge concepts unfolding in the world of technology.

Mobile has been an exponentially growing industry in the last few years, both in widespread use as well as capability. We’ve seen mobile websites, apps and commerce explode, but what should we expect to see next in the push toward a highly mobile-centric society? This is what we’ve learned from our sessions at SXSWi.

Location, Push Notifications and Relevancy

In the U.S., 74% of smartphone owners use their phones to access real-time location–based information. Roe McFarlane, VP of Product Innovation and Customer Experience at Redbox spoke Saturday on the hyper-relevancy and personalization location adds to marketing. McFarlane discussed the personalization already intricate to Redbox’s mobile application, which allows users to create wishlists of movies they look forward to watching and favorite their nearest Redbox locations. But he also discussed the incredible future mobile has, mentioning how convenient it would be to receive a push notification as you drove by your favorite Redbox location letting you know that Spiderman is available for rental.

McFarlane also spoke about interesting joint advertising opportunities brought on by understanding location. Since Redbox locations rely on local vendors, the two have a symbiotic relationship. It is frequent that a drugstore displays popcorn, candy, and soda next to its Redbox location, encouraging visitors to stock up for movie night. McFarlane suggested pushing coupons to customers visiting a Redbox, offering them a discount on a bag of Doritos.

Retail: Going Mobile

Retailers, motivated by fears of showrooming are now engaging customers in and out of the store. A number of retailers and brands including Starbucks, ABC, WWE, and Redbox emphasized the need to contextually and personally engage customers through mobile, a technology that has the benefit of being always present with its owner.

A number of emerging trends in store including mobile point-of-sale, in-app check-out, and digital signage.  Starbucks’s Category Manager Dana Kruse discussed the opportunity mobile opens up between baristas and regular customers.  As the ordering and checkout process becomes more seamless, customers are freed from check out process in order to check in with their local barista and build a relationship.

Personalization was another key trend in mobile because of its ability to link to loyalty programs and customize content.  Both Tina Prause, Senior Director of Mobile Products at WWE and Peter Roybal, Product Management for ABC mentioned the success they have had in allowing users to customize their own experience.  In particular, Roybal mentioned how ABC’s mobile app allows users to follow specific news sources and receive push notifications updating them on how the news is evolving.

Consolidation & Specialization

At SXSWi, it is always interesting to learn about new apps that have been launched and the ones that stand out this year offer consolidated personal and business solutions.

pplconnect is a virtual smartphone app that allows you to tap into your personal information from any device with WiFi and urges consumers to pursue “mobile freedom,” a positive thing for Americans, who are constantly on the go.

Industry leaders also expressed a need for specialization in mobile commerce and sharing. Giving users the ability to search locally for services and products based on location and preferred cost not only customizes a purchase, but supports local merchants and small business. Zaarly is a mobile app that offers handpicked and highly specialized merchants, services and products using a smartphone application as the primary channel for search and purchase.

Lastly, the app on everyone’s lips was Uber, an app that not only makes it easy to find a nearby private driver but makes riding a private car seamless. By providing private drivers with their own smartphone with Uber installed, drivers and riders can quickly find each other. Further, riders can plug in where they are going and pay for the service on the spot, making trips quicker and less confusing.

Kirsty Hughan is Digby‘s Marketing Manager and as such is excited by the opportunity mobile provides to finally allow for a 1:1 marketing strategy for brands.  To stay in touch, you can find her on Digby’s FacebookTwitter or the Digby Blog.


Originally posted on Digby’s The Mobile Retail Blog

The last couple of years have been pivotal for brands’ social media capabilities. Social media has grown beyond the 140-character, text-only limit and has blossomed into media-rich social communities. There is a burgeoning opportunity for brands to take advantage of social media in new ways to garner more brand interest, loyalty and participation.

About four years ago, Twitter was dominating the media waves with thousands of experts and bloggers sharing advice on how brands and companies could harness this new social technology. Now, media-rich platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are the social media darlings, and Facebook continues to release innovative new capabilities for companies hoping to connect with their social customers. Some brands are making promising headway into social and mobile integration, and soon, they’ll be paving the way for many other brands. For companies contemplating dipping a foot in—or diving in completely—there are a number of practices to start now.

1. Incorporate merchandise photos on an Instagram brand page.

Instagram is a popular new photo sharing mobile app, where users can upload or take photos, edit them using preloaded photo themes and share with the community and their friends. Brands with photogenic merchandise should get on Instagram now. Companies should upload in-store photos of products or events, product shots, magazine spots and any other brand-worthy photos to Instagram, and tag them with key words and location to drive traffic to local stores. Puma (11,000+ followers) is doing a great job of sharing not only product shots, but lifestyle shots, with a friendly mobile fan base.

2. Add “lookbooks” to Pinterest.

Officially launched in 2010 as an invite-only beta trial, Pinterest has become the fastest growing and third most popular social network, behind only Facebook and Twitter. This virtual pin board allows users to upload photos from the web, add a description, organize by topic (or pin board) and share with their followers. Because every pin is credited back to the online source, many brands have experienced increases in site visits and sales from Pinterest traffic. A study showed that 21 percent of Pinterest users had made a purchase directly from Companies could easily create boards that serve as lookbooks for their merchandise. One of my favorite brands to follow on Pinterest is Michael Kors, and his board, “Style Tips” is a good example of a brand sharing a product-inspired lookbook. A recommendation for Mr. Kors would be to link the photo back to the e-commerce product page or include the link in the description.

3. Allow customers to create and share Pinterest boards as a part of a community action.

Earlier this year, The Paper Source, an arts and crafts store, encouraged their customers to create a board inspired by a craft project using pins from as a part of a competition. The chosen winner of the most creative board would receive a large discount on all supplies needed to complete the project. It would be awesome to see a company run an in-store mobile contest where customers could create Pinterest boards on their phones or tablets by scanning product QR codes and adding them to the boards. Continue reading