Mobile Apps as a New Sales Channel: Strategy and Design in 4 Steps

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They are our daily companions: mobile apps on our smartphones count our steps, manage our photos and give us suggestions on what to have for dinner and who to go out on a date with. Consumers have particularly grown to appreciate the benefits of shopping apps: do your shopping anywhere and at any time, whether on the train or between two espressos in your favourite café.

Over half of all online purchases are now made on mobile devices. In Germany, revenue generated with mobile apps almost doubled to more than 3 billion euros between 2018 and 2021 alone. Harness the potential of your own mobile app and take a decisive step towards an omnichannel strategy.

Companies like Sonderpreis Baumarkt lead by example – in this case with the »Macher« app. Their own mobile app helps them increase the availability of their services and provide their customers with further added value.

A Mobile App for Your Customers:

  1. Strategy and Concept Creation
  2. Mobile App Design
  3. Customer Loyalty To Go
  4. Progressive Web Apps

Mobile App Strategy and Concept Creation

Convincing your users to install your app on their mobile devices is one thing – preventing them from uninstalling it right away is another. That is why apps should offer additional services, run flawlessly and, of course, be visually appealing. Integrate a well thought out and sensible mobile strategy into your corporate vision and keep your target group’s needs in mind. A strategically well-planned and visually appealing app can give you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry.

First, you should determine the purpose of your app and what added value it should bring to your customers. For example, it could complement the in-store shopping experience, act as an additional online shopping channel or offer your target group inspiration in the form of new recipes or DIYs. Some apps even combine several of these options. Use cases such as QR code scanning, mobile push notifications for special offers or even augmented reality features can also improve your customers’ shopping experience.

For this purpose, use the concept creation phase to define specific touchpoints where the app supports interaction with customers. To improve the customer journey, it can sometimes even make sense to completely replace previous customer touchpoints with the app.

To develop an effective mobile app strategy for your digital business, you should follow these four steps:

Step 1: Analyse Your Market, Customers and Competitors

To ensure that your app meets the requirements of your users in the best possible way, it is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of your target group before development:

  • Who exactly should use the app?
  • Which section(s) of your current customer base do you want to address?
  • Which new users do you want to reach with the additional offers?

It is advisable to define personas – hypothetical users who represent a target group with its typical characteristics and user behaviour. A close look at the app stores will also help you get an overview of the mobile apps offered by your competitors. Which features that would be important to your target group have not been considered by your competitors?

If you can answer all these questions, chances are you are offering real added value and doing a great service to your brand and the users of your app.

Step 2: Targeting and Visibility

Even the best added value must first be recognised by users. That is why your mobile app strategy should also include concrete measures to promote the app – for example directly in the major app stores for iOS and Android or on social media.

The increased visibility of your brand and your offers through a presence in the Google Play Store, for example, is an advantage you should not underestimate. Similar to search engine optimisation (SEO), there are ways to make the entry for your mobile app as meaningful as possible. App store optimisation (ASO) includes a catchy title, a fitting description and appealing app screenshots. This ensures that relevant users find your mobile app in the app store and let their fingers wander to the download button.

Step 3: Monetisation

There are various goals that you can reach using a mobile app. By winning over new customers and retaining existing ones, you can indirectly increase your revenue.

A direct monetisation via in-app purchases or subscription models can also make sense for certain services. For example, a bicycle dealer could offer a paid app that plans bike tour routes.

Step 4: Data Protection

As with websites, if you want to operate an app as a company, you must comply with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The privacy policy must be individually adapted for your app so that, for example, specific authorisations and processing procedures for the mobile use case are covered. Thorough documentation during app development can help you better understand the data flows later on and uncover any security vulnerabilities more quickly.

UX Design for Your Mobile App

The basic principle is this: to achieve your strategic goals, your app should be as user-friendly as it is varied in structure and design. A good user experience design allows your customers to intuitively use the digital channels and creates a consistent brand experience. First impressions often count, ensuring that the app download is not quickly followed by uninstallation. New users should find what they are looking for intuitively, while your existing customers expect added value through innovative app features.

An initial visualisation of the ideas and tests of different use cases can show you if and how your requirements can be implemented – even before the actual app programming.

For the optimal user experience design of your mobile app, you should keep the following four steps in mind:

Step 1: User Research

Determine the needs of your target group before developing the first features. The context in which your audience will later use the app is relevant.
For example, are all elements easily recognisable even if the app is used outdoors in bright sunlight? Do your users need sound or subtitles to consume certain elements?

The creation of such specific practical scenarios and experience maps helps you think about potential challenges from the very beginning. In doing so, all possible steps that users could take in the app are mapped to better understand their emotions and pain points and to proactively consider them in the design.

Once it is clear which requirements your target group has, you can define detailed content. What kind of content do users need and how many pages does the app need in total?

Step 2: Prototyping

Afterwards, this content can be made visible in a digital, interactive prototype. Use it as a basis for initial evaluations and user tests – testing with real people, so to speak. For example, before the actual programming, you can check where elements should ideally be placed in the app so that users can find them intuitively.

By the way, design sprints are a good way to develop such an initial prototype in the shortest possible time. A team of stakeholders from relevant company departments works on the implementation of a specific task for a limited period of time. A well-developed prototype created in this way prevents additional costs.

Step 3: Unmistakable Thanks to a Style Guide

Your mobile app now has a user-friendly and beautiful design – but will users immediately recognise it as your app, as your design? After all, loyal customers should be able to recognise an app from their favourite brand the moment they see it in the app store. This fosters trust and makes it even more likely that customers will click the download button.

Use a digital style guide to build such recognition for your brand and thereby increase awareness of your company. In this style guide, concrete design guidelines for your entire communication are defined – be it the colours and font colours that should be used, certain spellings or the overall way of addressing customers: for example, are you on first- or last-name terms with your target group?

Such a style guide is not only useful in positioning your app as a channel for customer communication, but also ensures a consistent brand presence across all channels. Ideally, you should already have such design guidelines independently of your app development and then simply supplement them accordingly for the use case of your company’s own mobile app.

Step 4: Further Development of App Design with a Professional Audit

A rolling stone gathers no moss – this is especially important to keep in mind when it comes to digital projects. App users expect the apps they use to constantly improve and develop. UX audits help you uncover the optimisation potential of your app and perfectly integrate it into a cross-platform user experience for your target group. In addition, you can use such audits to check whether set goals and objectives have been achieved and how you need to adapt them if necessary.

Mobile Apps: Customer Loyalty to Go

App users expect innovative and useful features offered to them by retailers and brands. In this context, one feature that more and more companies are discovering for themselves is customer loyalty programmes with various benefits and perks that are offered in the form of (or as a feature in) the company’s own apps – a service that is well received, as a recent consumer survey on loyalty apps conducted by IFH Cologne shows: 80 per cent of those surveyed use such customer loyalty programmes in the form of apps.

Sonderpreis Baumarkt App: Mobile E-Commerce Meets Service Concept

An example of this approach is the native mobile app from Sonderpreis Baumarkt, which dotSource implemented for iOS and Android. Among other things, the customer card, known as the »Macher« card, is digitally displayed in the app.

The DIY chain, which belongs to FISHBULL Franz Fischer Qualitätswerkzeuge GmbH from Franconia, now has a nationwide presence with more than 300 branches. Since 2014, the company has also operated an online shop. To offer its customers convenient and fast digital access to offers and services on the move, the next step was obvious for the e-commerce player.

With the company’s own app, Sonderpreis Baumarkt strengthened customer loyalty. The DIY chain’s weekly advertising leaflet is easily accessible via the app and linked to the online shop. By clicking on a product in the leaflet and being taken straight to the shop, users are more likely to make a purchase.

The feature of a digital receipt also provides an additional service for the DIY chain’s customers: unlike the traditional paper version, digital receipts cannot be misplaced or lost if an exchange should ever be necessary. The receipts archived in the app can also be used to precisely track previous purchases in the store. This is helpful, for example, if glaze in a specific colour needs to be repurchased a long time after a renovation. For quick and easy access, digital receipts can also be integrated directly as a widget on the app dashboard.

With the app, Sonderpreis Baumarkt has added an important component to a modern customer journey in the omnichannel age.

Progressive Web Apps – The Future of Mobile Apps?

We have found that mobile apps offer many advantages as an additional channel for interaction with customers. However, according to various user analyses, it is also true that only a fraction of smartphone users install new apps – but the average user visits dozens, if not hundreds of websites per month.

So why not have the best of both worlds and combine the reach of websites with the capabilities offered by a mobile app? Progressive web apps (PWA) close the gap between a pure mobile app and a pure website.

Progressive Web Apps: What They Can and Cannot Do

To put it simply, a progressive web app is a website that has a lot in common with a mobile app. This means that your target group can access this content even when they are offline. Additionally, as is the case with regular apps, PWAs can be added to your smartphone’s home screen.

Unlike native apps, which are programmed for the operating system of a mobile device such as iOS or Android, a progressive web app is provided by a web server. Users can therefore view the app via a browser on a variety of devices. The PWA does not have to be installed for this. Native apps do – but they have the advantage that users have easier access to hardware features such as the smartphone camera. In general, they often offer better performance.

Progressive Web Apps: Google Search Instead of Google Play

Since PWAs do not require installation, users will not find them in the normal app stores. Rather, they are accessed via a URL. As such, they are easier to find, similar to a website via search engines such as Google. PWAs therefore offer enormous potential to increase your reach and engagement rates.

However, like many beautiful medals, this one also has two sides. App stores have certain requirements – such as security guidelines – for the apps listed with them. Many users see this as a kind of quality assurance or at least a trust bonus that a simple URL cannot claim for itself.

Overall, PWAs are still in an early stage of development – according to estimates, only about 17 per cent of page views on Google Chrome are PWA-related. However, they have the potential to significantly change the behaviour of smartphone users – away from the traditional, native mobile app to a website in the guise of an app.

Handelskraft Trend Book Digital Champions ReleaseThere is no doubt about it: company-owned mobile apps have a promising future in e-commerce. To learn more about digital trends you do not want to miss out on, sustainable digital transformation and everything else shimmering on the digital horizon, download the Handelskraft Trend Book 2023 today!

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