App users are your VIPs: treat them with respect

A modified version of this article was originally published on Internet Retailing.

It is a privilege to be on the home screen of your customers and even more on their good graces when they use that app regularly. Retailers need to change their view of customers and apps and start treating them with a little more respect.

A recent AppAnnie report on mobile retail pointed out something that too many retailers forget when designing apps: being present on users’ devices is a privilege that should not be taken for granted. According to comScore, the typical user in the US or Europe downloads just one app a month, and only has between 20 and 40 apps on their phone. Of those, the majority are highly popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger, or the standard Google or Apple suite.

Google’s Micro-Moments report shows that users regard their phone as one of the most intimate and personal items they own.

Google’s Micro-Moments report shows that users regard their phone as one of the most intimate and personal items they own. 87% of Americans report that they literally have their phone within reach 24/7. They check their phones 150 times a day, and it’s their go-to device when they have a question about practically anything.

If you can be one of those 10 or 20 apps on their home screen, you’ve earned an unprecedented level of access to your customer’s life. You’re literally in their pocket, just a click away, all the time. When they want to buy something, they just tap on the icon, and they’re immediately in your store.

If your app is well designed, they can ... complete their purchase in less time than it takes to open a browser and type in a URL

If your app is well designed, they can find what they’re looking for and complete their purchase in less time than it takes to open a browser and type in a URL or do a Google search. That doesn't sound like much. After all, it’s only saving them a few seconds, but in today's high-pressure, want-it-now world, those are highly significant seconds. For many customers, that’s literally all it takes to become their default choice. Instead of shopping around, they just come straight to you because it’s quicker and easier.

It's important to keep the big picture in mind. When a user chooses to use your app to buy something, you’re not just getting more sales. You’re also earning that customer’s trust. By choosing to shop via your app, they’re most likely choosing to forego the option of comparison-shopping in return for convenience and great service. They trust you to deliver the goods they want, at the right price, at the right speed. And as long as you keep delivering on that promise, they’ll keep coming back. They probably won’t even look at your competitors.

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But to get into that highly privileged position, you need to earn your customer’s trust and respect. If they’re going to install your app and, even more importantly, keep using it month after month, they expect and demand a great user experience. Everything, from app installation to product delivery has to be slick, easy, and absolutely first class.

Everything, from app installation to product delivery has to be slick, easy, and absolutely first class.

Let’s start with the app itself. It needs to be well designed and optimized for every user’s device. You’ll need to keep it up to date, of course, but you’ll also need to support older models and tablets. It’s not enough to support only the most common or most recent phones. Over 70% of apps are never used after the day they’re installed, so installation has to be fast and reliable.

The shopping process has to be as painless as possible. Your customer is probably looking for something specific, so help them find it, pay for it, and move on with their lives as quickly as possible.

  • Provide powerful search tools, and amplify these with very carefully selected personalized recommendations for products they may be looking for. Don't make them browse through screens of options they're not interested in.
  • Don’t interrupt them with unwanted ads or upsells that get in their way. You're not trying to maximize the value of this individual transaction: you're trying to make it easier for them to buy the thing they came here for so that they'll come back again and again.
  • Give them plenty of information about the product, but remember they’re probably using a small screen. Make sure your designers are thinking mobile-first. Make sure they can zoom images, and don’t try and cram too much text into too little space.
  • Provide simple payment options, preferably with stored payment details: don’t make them enter their credit card details each time. Using PayPal or other methods saves them time and hassle.

Once they’ve bought an item, the follow-up is all-important. Send them regular notifications to keep them informed of how the delivery process is going and show your customers how responsive you are. Then keep them coming back by rewarding their loyalty. Don’t spam them with constant intrusive offers or special deals, but do send them occasional notifications of carefully chosen products and discounts that fit their unique user profile.

What it comes down to is that you need to treat your mobile app customers with maximum respect ... they’re your most loyal and dedicated customers,

What it comes down to is that you need to treat your mobile app customers with maximum respect. They’re not the same as your Web or mobile Web customers: they’re your most loyal and dedicated customers, the ones who will keep coming back to you as long as you keep treating them right. They’re your VIPs, so make them feel special. Don’t waste their time. Don’t badger them to buy products they don’t want. Don’t chase short-term sales and drive away long-term customers in the process.

Only then will they reward you with the privilege of putting your app on their home screen.