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Christine Kern
December 07, 2016

Are Your Apps Ready For the Holidays?


As the holiday shopping season quickly approaches, retailers need to ensure that their apps are up to snuff in order to capture their real value from consumers. During the holiday season last year, mobile accounted for 57.2 percent of all online traffic and 36.2 percent of all online sales – respective increases of 15.2 and 30 percent over 2014, according to IBM Watson Trend. And now today, there are actually more mobile devices on the planet than people. With digital sales and mobile shopping both anticipated to increase 25 percent this year, it is definitely a channel that retailers cannot afford to ignore.

Mobile’s role for retail

Holiday sales in 2015 hit approximately $626 billion, and smartphones take up an increasingly bigger piece of this holiday pie. In 2015, 57.2 percent of Black Friday traffic came from mobile devices – a 174 percent increase over 2014. Mobile also drove 49 percent of web traffic on Cyber Monday 2015, creating 28 percent of sales worth $514 million.

“Mobile is growing rapidly,” said SteelHouse’s chief marketing officer Patrizio Spagnoletto. “Consumers are searching for last-minute deals, and they’re waiting longer to begin their holiday shopping with retailers that accommodate later delivery. These are important shifts that require marketers to be more strategic and thoughtful about how and when they reach the critical in-market buyer.”

The challenge for store-based retailers will likely be to leverage their distinctive advantages to stay relevant. And that relevancy extends to the creation of strong mobile apps that meet their customers’ needs.

Five essential tips for ensuring success

1. Leverage push notifications - while customers are in-store. IBM’s Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report indicated that while half of consumers want to receive real-time promotions while they are in-store, just 5 percent of retailers currently have this capacity. By providing contextual, hyper-personalized push notifications, retailers can capitalize on these missed opportunities, particularly during the holiday season. When notifications are sent at the right time and offer the right message, they can increase user retention by up to 55 percent, according to Urban Airship.

Get creative with your messaging, too, as these examples demonstrate, with push notifications that include instructions, calls to action, or emojis to help drive traffic:


Interactive push notifications can also help connect with customers and drive immediate action, as Shop Direct’s MyVery app demonstrated last year. Their interactive notifications instructed users to swipe left if they wanted to receive daily deals during Black Friday. Those who did were added to a Black Friday segment intended to drive engagement throughout the campaign. According to Alex Baldock, CEO of Shop Direct, the e-commerce giant saw a “record week” prior to Black Friday, with overall growth up 64 percent year-over-year across all platforms.


2. Use the app to enhance the in-store shopping experience. By connecting your channels via a mobile app, you can help boost sales both online and in-store. Customers are searching for integrated shopping experiences because it makes their lives easier and more convenient.

Home Depot has launched an app that lets customers type in a specific item and get directions to where to find it in the store, and associates can also use the app to determine whether a product is in-stock, available for order, or in-stock at another location.  The app also includes an augmented-reality feature that allows shoppers to see what a particular product might look like in their own home.  While the Home Depot app is not holiday-specific, it is helping to drive traffic on seasonal items.


3. Theme your content and in-app purchases to the holiday.  That also means decorating push notifications and in-app messages to reflect the season. When customers feel festive, they loosen their purse strings. “Decorating” for the holidays can help motivate shoppers to engage with your app, drawing them in with the seasonal themes.

Create attractive holiday in-app offers  like:

  • 10 Gifts for Him Under $10
  • 3 Gifts Dad Will Love for $25 or Less
  • 3 Must-Have Gifts for Kids for $50 or Less
  • Get 8 Hanukah Gifts for $80
  • $15 Holiday Gifts for the Coffee Drinker
  • 10 Appetizers Under $10 – Only During the Holidays

Here’s an example from Ulta’s 2015 holiday campaign. Though the seasonal theme is subtle, it is strong enough to promote the festive mood among shoppers, combining it with a promotional message of affordable holiday gifts.


And the Home Depot’s app also encouraged gift cards as “The Perfect Present”:

home depot-213696-edited.png

4. Deep link notifications to a holiday-themed message center to further engage customers. Last year, Game Stop used vivid imagery and holiday colors on its in-app message center to help spread holiday cheer. In 2015, four times as many retail apps used message centers than in 2014, with the volume of these messages increasing 152 percent.


5. Address several key elements of all apps, all the time. These include integration of context into the mobile experience; creating more natural interactions; securing brand and corporate reputation; and knowing how to differentiate between good and great.

Content used to be king when it comes to mobile apps, but consumers now expect customized mobile interactions that are only possible when context is integrated into the mobile experience.  Location-based insights and the integration of detailed customer information and relevant information about the environment (think the weather) help create experiences that are contextually relevant and tailored to the specific user.

Cognitive computing is also the next frontier for mobile apps, incorporating natural language processing and personality insights to help raise the customer experience to new heights. Enabling apps to process the way humans speak allows for a better user experience and therefore higher response rates and better service.

Security is more important than ever for brands, so ensuring that your company has adopted well-architected mobile security will help protect the brand and its consumers.

And perhaps most importantly, your company needs to ensure that it builds a great app. Consumers spend approximately 85 percent of their time on smartphones within apps. A recent Forrester Consulting study examined at the difference between great apps and good apps and found a dramatic gap. In fact, a great app produced five times more revenue opportunity, and expanded sales in other channels like brick-and-mortar stores and delivered cost savings at a higher rate than good apps.

Ready, Set, App!

Let AppSheet help you develop and tweak your mobile apps to help ensure their holiday readiness and drive customer sales. Whether it’s an e-commerce app, inventory management, tracking customer contacts, order capture, or something else, AppSheet can transform your data into convenient, custom apps just in time for the Holidays.

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