Mobile First: How to Build a Portal to Better Customer Relationships With Mobile Apps
You’ve seen the statistics: Mobile devices are quickly becoming the gateway to everything media. This new mobile reality has permeated our lives and our culture. I saw a study recently that encapsulates this particular change in culture. Common Sense Media surveyed parents of children 0-8 in the U.S. and found that 38 percent of 2-year-old children and younger have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos or other media-related purposes. These are toddlers—babies, really—who haven’t learned how to put a sentence together, yet they have no trouble accessing games or cueing up videos.
With smartphone adoption rates as high as 56 percent in the U.S., it’s clear that mobile devices—and the apps they power—will only continue to grow. It’s also clear that businesses need to adjust their customer communications strategies and budgets for this new mobile reality.
A handful of companies have done an excellent job creating mobile apps that have been heartily embraced by customers. They’ve been rewarded with good press and greater customer loyalty. While companies like Ikea, Starbucks and even CVS are held up as examples, there are thousands of others that flat-out fail. Some fail because of bad execution or lack of awareness, but most of the time it’s a question of value.
Moving Beyond Made-You-Look
When it comes to apps, marketers need to think about how they can use their apps to add value to their customer relationships, long-term. To get customers engaged initially, it’s important to have a hook; whether that’s coupons, special offers or a unique augmented reality (AR) experience. If you want them to keep coming back, you need to provide continued value, not an endless commercial. Your long-term success depends on it.
Especially in the B-to-B space, sales and marketing apps can end up being repositories for existing presentations, videos and sales collateral. Worse yet, mobile apps are often approached with a project mindset, rather than as a long-term strategy. The real challenge for marketers is delivering content that adds value to the mobile experience and to the customer relationship. In fact, once you get customers to opt in, you had better provide value—and keep providing it.
Giving Customers the Value-Add
Here are five ways you can add value to your mobile apps:
1. Solve a problem for them. People tend to use apps to make their lives easier. Starbucks has a very loyal app user base because the company makes it easy for them to quickly pay for their coffee. CVS customers use its app because it saves them time shopping and refilling prescriptions. Home Depot has an AR app that lets customers see what a new front door would look like on their own house so they can make their purchase confidently.
In the B-to-B space, the most useful apps offer product selectors, calculators or an easy way to reorder consumable supplies. What are your customers’ pain points? How will you help them solve them?
2. Give them an easy way to communicate. Think of the app as a communications channel. Make it easy for customers to ask questions, request service and make purchases. Your app also can be a great way to gain feedback and input on future product development. But make sure it’s integrated into the app. You never want to disrupt the one-to-one engagement by sending them off to a Web page for contact information or requests.
3. Keep it relevant. Mobile content not only needs to be relevant to the individual, but also to the medium. Resist the urge to shoe-horn existing content into the new media. Rethink how your audience wants to consume information on mobile devices. Use push notifications to provide relevant and timely information based on location, past purchase, inquiries, etc. Make them feel special by giving them first access to important announcements or new products. Better yet, let them be part of new product development through surveys and beta testing.
4. Leverage native device capabilities. Manufacturers continue to push the envelope with the standard features shipped on new devices, including better cameras, location-based service and more. The more you can use those innate capabilities, the more seamless the experience will be for the user. The same is true for the interface. Every platform has its own user interface and usability guidelines. Use them to provide the best possible experience on each platform.
5. Don’t forget the fun. Any relationship can get stagnant without a little romance. Surprise your audience with something unexpected. If you got them to engage with an AR experience, don’t stop there. Keep delivering interactive experiences, whether it’s AR or gamification. Consider integrating social media to create a community atmosphere. Or use the app to infuse some fun into an annual user group meeting or industry event.
Customers Will Expect More
A mobile app isn’t something you can release and forget about. It will need to be updated on a regular basis, not only to keep up with latest device operating systems and new capabilities, but also to continue adding value to the customer experience. Pay attention to app analytics so you can measure your success. Determine which features customers are responding to. Understand how well you’re doing at solving their problems. Look for ways to optimize over time.
Remember, the new mobile reality has raised your customers’ expectations. Once you start using the medium, you need to plan and deliver all content with mobile in mind. Your customers will continue to expect new and interactive experiences. Marketers must always be thinking about new ways to engage, connect and delight.
M.J. Anderson is CMO at multichannel marketing firm, Trekk, Inc, and is filling in for regular Mobile First columnist Fernando Espejel. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.