TECHNOLOGY

Tech Viewpoint: Three things to know when designing a consumer app

BY Dan Berthiaume

Retailers need to understand a number of factors before providing their customers with a mobile app.

Increasingly, retailers are launching proprietary consumer apps. An app can serve as a critical component of an omnichannel retail strategy, boosting sales, visits, and customer satisfaction.

However, there is no single model to follow when designing a consumer app. Each retailer’s app should reflect its operational needs and the preferences of its customers. This means a retailer must truly know its business before rolling out a consumer app. Here are three specific things a retailer should make sure it knows when preparing to release a consumer app.

Know your customer
Different retailers serve different customer demographics, who will use a mobile app differently. Does your shopper base primarily consist of constantly connected millennials? You may want to include time- and location-sensitive notifications of special deals and offers, such as a discount targeted toward last-minute holiday shopping or a customer passing near a store outlet. In addition, your app should probably feature video, augmented and virtual reality, and other rich digital content.

However, if your customers are mostly Baby Boomers, your app should be designed around ease of use. Flashy features and up-to-the-minute content will matter less than intuitive navigation, clear graphics, and direct access to information.

Know your vertical
The functionality you offer in your consumer app should also reflect your vertical. Convenience retailers, whose customers typically want to purchase a few items quickly, should consider “tap and go” automatic payment features. Grocery retailers, whose customers often buy a large amount of the same products every week, should look at offering mobile shopping lists and click-and-collect payment/pickup services to streamline what is often an arduous chore.

Meanwhile, retailers of expensive and/or complex items, such as electronics and DIY home repair chains, can greatly aid their shoppers with mobile access to product information. Home goods retailers may find mobile registry applications helpful to both recipients and givers of gifts.

Know your capabilities
Knowing what your customers want and the specific nuances of your vertical is all well and good, but you also must know yourself. Before going ahead with design, retailers need to thoroughly assess their mobile development capabilities. Design and maintenance can easily be outsourced via the cloud, but this results in additional (and possibly ongoing) expense.

If you design an app in-house, take a realistic look at what your technology and operational infrastructure is capable of supporting. Can you fulfill mobile delivery orders with your own distribution systems and drivers, or do you need to partner with a third-party delivery specialist? Can your inventory systems ensure items purchased via click-and-collect are actually in-stock and placed on reserve at a local store? Whatever digital content you push out to your mobile customers, make sure there is real-world infrastructure and merchandise behind it.

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