A robust mobile strategy is the route to a broader audience today. The ease and convenience of shopping on smartphones is drawing in the growing number of consumers who want to shop on the move, compare in-store prices, or just browse online stores while in their own home.

For consumers, the best mobile experiences come down to two things: a modern mobile-optimised website and a brilliant app. Many shoppers use both interchangeably and will expect to have the luxury of choice – particularly younger users who have grown up used to this flexibility and will quickly take their custom elsewhere in the face of experiences that don’t live up to their high expectations.

While no longer a new technology, apps still present a challenge for companies developing their mobile strategies, as well as for many that have had one in place for some time. What follows are some guiding principles which retailers would be wise to consider when developing apps for today’s shoppers:

Consistent branding is key 

Retailers are wrestling with omni-channel and will find out for themselves just how important it is to represent their brand equally and clearly across all platforms. That may require updating their branding guidelines to show consumers they are as committed to the look and feel of their app as they are to the appearance of their storefront. It’s essential for a brand to assure shoppers it is serious about all its channels. This discipline and professionalism will inspire consumers to put equal faith in all the brand’s platforms.

A great experience isn’t just for the store

Shops invest a great deal of money in the in-store experience, from décor to staff training. Many have also have spent large sums to ensure their website is fast, effective and delivers a great experience for consumers. The same approach must be taken with a mobile app. Functionality is paramount, but that doesn’t mean the experience shouldn’t still look and feel as great as the best online or in-store purchasing journey. The app should look premium in design and make shopping both intuitive and enjoyable. Companies should keep a close eye on reviews to ensure they are delivering the experience customers want.  

Premium doesn’t have to be complicated

A good app just works. If it doesn’t, most shoppers – and especially younger users – will just look elsewhere. Apps need to be effortlessly easy to use. Any configuration or settings that can be tweaked to a user’s preference must be simple to understand and implement, and navigating the app must be as intuitive as browsing a brand’s online store. Testing, testing and more testing is the key to getting this right. It’s also crucial to respond quickly if it becomes clear users are struggling with any area of functionality.

Make the customer feel valued

Shoppers want to know that their custom is appreciated. It’s easy to achieve this in store, but for app users focussed on a quick, easy transaction with minimal complexity this becomes more difficult. One effective way to make customers feel valued is to keep listening and responding to their concerns and feedback. App users are prone to sharing feedback and as such retailers would do well address any questions or areas of concern they flag. It’s also essential to roll out updates quickly, making clear what has been improved and what additional functionality has been added.

Analysis is the key to success

In addition to monitoring feedback and keeping a close eye on reviews, retailers must be set-up to analyse the detailed data via their app’s back-end. Conversion rates and cart abandonment figures will give them a good idea of whether customers are finding it hard to navigate their app, and to pinpoint where and why this is happening – from slow browsing an overly complex or convoluted sales journey. App data also gives retailers a clearer idea of how their experience is being received by consumers so they can tweak their approach before losing shoppers to competitors.