Last month, GDR’s senior consultant Will Seymour attended the Future Stores conference in London. Will had the opportunity to run a small roundtable session about apps, and discovered the concept of App 2.0 came with a number of burning questions from brands and retailers.
It’s not often that you find yourself in charge of a room filled with people from some of the world’s biggest and best retailers, and it’s on rare occasions like these that I make sure I take advantage of all those brains and experience. I always like to start with a Q&A, to find out what’s on people’s minds.
Of course, a great many retailers have an app or mobile strategy of some sort, and so our thinking focussed on which approaches were necessary to upgrade/redevelop/expand these capabilities for the next wave of digital interaction. Considering the retailers’ next-gen apps – App 2.0 – brought together some common concerns:
- Where are the frontiers of customer experience and how do we push them?
- Should/how do we converge digital systems such as multiple staff- and consumer-facing technologies into a single app?
- How can we draw the shortest possible line between stock and inventory services, customer service, and customers themselves?
- What app functionalities will future consumers actually think of as valuable, rather than just gimmicky/unnecessary/PR-driven?
- Should we even try and build an app?
That last point deserves special attention.
If you’re designing an app or procuring technology today, consider some of the warning signs against simply assuming that you need to be in the App Store. For starters, most people download zero apps a month. 90% of branded apps have fewer than 10k downloads. Google has even hinted that downloading apps will become completely unnecessary. And if you don’t have a vigorous update schedule like Instagram and WeChat, how’s it going to compare in two years’ time?
All this is why some brands are divesting app-like capabilities from apps. And that doesn’t just mean web app. It means doing things like experimenting with SMS, whether that’s for product fulfilment or for CRM. That’s right, you can run a loyalty scheme or data-driven marketing campaign using nothing more complex than SMS. Nothing for customers to download. No barriers. No reliance on 4G or roaming data plans. No more choosing between iPhone and Android users. In fact, SMS is the only thing that 100% of smartphone owners use.
Every retailer is different, and goal/sector/business requires a different solution. But for big questions like “how do we build a really fantastic app?”, I always start by playing the contrarian and asking what we can do without going anywhere near the App Store.
(Hint: it’s usually much more than you think!)