Mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide by 2013 (source: Gartner). It’s against this backdrop retailers are launching mobile-enabled web sites and apps to keep pace with their customers, wherever they may be; writes Retail Times editor Fiona Briggs
Increasingly, apps are being used to deliver value and engage.
The Argos iPhone app features the retailer’s latest price cuts and an option to reserve products for pick up in store. It has been downloaded 1.2m times.
Sainsbury’s launched its iPhone app in partnership with Nectar, its loyalty card provider. It targets personalised offers at users based on purchasing history.
Sainsbury’s says it aims to drive loyalty, giving shoppers relevant offers in a similar way to coupons at the till.
Smartphone users can also subscribe to a new allergy checker app – isitinit – which checks ingredients in products, by scanning the barcode; and is exclusive to Sainsbury’s.
Smartphones are becoming mobile wallets and online shopping lists. Starbucks has launched an app to enable mobile payment by Blackberry and Apple iOS users in all of its US stores; while Tesco’s grocery app features barcode scanning for the iPhone that enables customers to add items to their online shopping basket.
Rutter’s Farm Stores, a Pennsylvania-based convenience and forecourt chain, has been an early adopter of apps, which are available on Blackberry, iPhone and Android platforms. The apps provide sign-up features for promotions and deals, electronic couponing and games plus real-time fuel prices.
Scott Hartman, president and CEO, says benefits include reduced print costs and customer engagement. Loyalty is another win.
“We present our loyalty card on the app so the customer doesn’t have to carry a loyalty card on them,” he says. “It allows them to check their rewards, which are gasoline-based, so they can see what the store prices are and what their rewards would be.
“Customers want offers and are value conscious. Rewards and apps that help them find lower gas prices fit in with the economic model of consumers today.”
Waitrose has an iPhone app and mobile web site, offering recipes plus a ‘cook’s tools’ function featuring helpful advice.
Nick Marley, head of webselling and online marketing at Waitrose, claims mobile technology helps build a dialogue with customers and promotes interaction. Future development will include online shopping, he says.
Tesco has launched a mobile web site for its Direct non-food offer following 300% growth in traffic from mobiles and plans future mobile sites.
Marks & Spencer (M&S) bypassed apps completely to launch a mobile-enabled website. Analytics showed more devices were visiting its site – feature phones as well as iPhone and Android – and it wanted to target the broadest selection of customers.
The site includes reviews, which are a powerful way for customers to lever word of mouth marketing, says Sienne Veit, business development manager, new technologies.
A ‘My Account’ feature lets users track and manage their orders, ideal for on-the-go customers, says Veit. Since launch in 2010, the site has attracted 2m visitors but purchasing has been counterintuitive. M&S expected mobile would be used for gifting but top categories by revenue are home and furniture, while womenswear is most popular by volume.
M&S has also extended a text messaging service to O2 customers, targeting them with timely offers. So-called proximity marketing delights shoppers. “Mobile is about providing customers with great value and convenience when they need it,” says Veit.