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Accelerating the Retail Experience with No-Code Automation

Time is of the essence in retail, where customer demands rapidly change, competition is fierce, and disruption is constant — making automation a necessity for any retail business to survive and thrive. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail has had to re-invent the shopping experience in stores, implement curb-side pick-up, and pivot to online sales models. Based on changing government guidelines, retail outlets have had to change processes and employee protocol. According to McKinsey & Company, automatable activities account for nearly 40 percent of retailers’ time, and experts estimate that automation will add approximately $24.6 billion in value to the retail industry by 2025. While the challenges of digital transformation and applying automation technologies to business processes can seem daunting and out of reach for businesses without an army of engineers, that’s not the case with Google Cloud’s AppSheet. AppSheet combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) with the simplicity and democratizing power of no-code development to give all retail teams (even non-technical employees) the ability to quickly automate existing processes without having to write a single line of code. The AppSheet platform is designed to help retailers tap into automation opportunities so they can drive further efficiencies across their entire enterprise — from customer experience and employee retention to inventory management and timely marketing promotion. Over the next month, we’ll be spotlighting no-code automation use cases by industry — starting with this week’s focus on retail. Customer Retention In a hyper-competitive industry like retail, it’s not enough to make a sale. You need to win a customer’s business repeatedly. With no-code automation, you can put the optimization of your customer retention efforts on autopilot. Establish automated workflows to send customers loyalty points or discount codes after they make a purchase, share special holiday and birthday offers based on customer data, distribute feedback surveys after a store visit to show you value their business, and more. No-code automation makes it possible for any retail business to provide their customers a personalized, high-touch experience that wins their loyalty and drives greater customer lifetime value. Warehouse Management “Do you have any more in the back?” is a question familiar to most retailers — and one that can take an enormous amount of time to answer. With a custom inventory app powered by no-code automation, you can give your agents on the floor the ability to quickly check inventory right from a mobile device without having to venture into the warehouse. And if an item isn’t in stock, they can use the app to quickly check the inventory of nearby stores and locations to refer customers to another branch to make their purchase. That means fewer lost sales, less time spent searching for inventory, and greater clarity for your business — all of which leads to a more positive customer experience. Workforce Training and Compliance The retail industry is always changing, which means keeping employees up-to-date on company policies, technologies, and protocols can be a full-time job. AppSheet can boost your efficiency and help guarantee organization-wide compliance by automatically triggering lessons and training based on workflows and parameters. Whether it’s a regular quarterly update or a net-new course brought on by a recent merger, market shift, or new legislation, you can automate your workforce training so no employee gets left behind. And by smoothly integrating all that employee data and content, an automated process can also help your HR team quickly identify employees well-suited for promotion and career advancement to keep your most valuable team members right where they belong — helping your company succeed. Merchandise Planning Experts estimate that retailers spend up to 20 percent of their time on merchandise planning. Despite this, inventory forecasting, sales and promotions, and pricing can be fraught with unknowns and risks. But with no-code automation, retail teams (including non-technical workers) can use powerful predictive modeling and analytics to study past, present, and future trends in order to make better-informed decisions about their merchandise and surface insights and opportunities they may have otherwise missed. With Google Cloud’s AppSheet, retailers can take the guesswork out of merchandise planning — giving business leaders the ability to minimize exposure to risks while making sure products and promotions always hit the mark. Inventory Management Like merchandise planning, proper inventory management is key to making sure you always have enough of what customers want on-hand, without the excess supply. A custom app powered by AppSheet can provide a 360-degree view of your retail inventory. You can use the app to understand which items need replenishing, which to stop ordering, and which to markdown in order to move. AppSheet gives you AI-powered predictive technology so you can build in functionality to prepare for unexpected spikes and drops in demand based on past and future trends — all with zero coding skills. Accounting Don’t tell your sales team, but accounting is the lifeblood of every successful business. By automating financial workflows such as accounts payable and receivable, payroll, and expenses and procurement, you can dramatically cut down on waste while speeding up your ability to get what you need from partners and suppliers. In fact, Google Cloud’s AppSheet offers an Expensing and Procurement Sample App that you can easily copy, customize, and use at your workplace — right now, for free! * * * With Google Cloud’s AppSheet, retail leaders and employees everywhere can automate their most mission-critical business processes with zero coding skills and technical background. Getting started with AppSheet’s no-code development platform couldn’t be easier, so start your business’s digital transformation today!

Sweden’s FlorCert: Using AppSheet to Improve Floral Certification Exams

Editor’s note: In addition to his role at the Flower Academy, Mikael serves as Chairman of Sweden’s Florist Association of Professional Industries, an organization that provides training and certification for upper secondary education students. He also plays an integral role at FlorCert, a European-wide quality assurance program for vocational training and education, and coaches Sweden’s national florists competing in the Euroskills and Worldskills games. Here is how Mikael is using AppSheet’s app maker platform to improve the floral certification process in Sweden: Visitors to Sweden are often surprised to learn that our country offers so many interesting and beautiful flowers. Some of these include the popular Hibiscus, the dramatic purple Pasqueflower and of course the Sorbus Hybrida with its distinguishable red berries. Sweden is also a great place to launch a floral career. I started here in 1976 as an apprentice, and have since worked as a shop owner, operator and business consultant. Much of my success can be attributed to my early days as an apprentice, where I received the necessary training and guidance for continuing in the industry. Now, I am working to improve the process for the next generation of incoming florists. Our Challenge At FlorCert, we provide final onsite examinations for about 20 different secondary education schools across Sweden. These examinations critique students for competency in multiple categories like composition, color, variety and technique. If students pass the exam, they can use this certification to help get a job at a flower shop. So it’s an important test, and one that we want to make as fair, efficient and comprehensive as possible. Awhile back, it became apparent that we needed to overhaul the way that we collect data during examinations. At first, we were using a paper-based system which was very inefficient. Paper exams, after all, can get lost, damaged, stolen or manipulated. So eventually, we moved on to Google Sheets which was far more efficient. But there was still a problem: Google Sheets is not easy to use on a smartphone or tablet. And during a floral examination, it’s very inconvenient for our assessors to use a laptop or desktop. We needed something that our team could use while walking around. We found AppSheet’s app maker platform and everything changed I found AppSheet in an advertisement while using Google Sheets. I clicked it, and was immediately sold. We selected AppSheet because it’s easy to use, even for novice designers like me with little to no coding experience. But we also selected AppSheet because we are a small, independent organization that does not generate any income. AppSheet matched our sensitive budgetary requirements, and allowed us to move forward with a high quality mobile solution. We made a simple application that allows us to collect data during examinations and then come together to compare notes after as a team. AppSheet also lets us store photos, which is very helpful when assessing floral arrangements. A work in progress Right now, the app is still in its early stages and there is still some work to be done. I am in the process of communicating with team members, assessing feedback and tinkering with the app to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. So while I do not have a great deal of results to report on, I do want to mention the design process — because I think that is one of the most powerful parts of this program. If I were to work with a private developer, I would — in addition to paying a lot of money — have to wait a long time for changes to come back. But now, I can simply open the AppSheet portal and make changes in real-time. Say, for instance, there was an important last minute update to an examination that we needed to incorporate. Without AppSheet, it would be very difficult to change our process. We would have to collect some of the results in the app, and other results manually. But with AppSheet, we can go in and add a field if it’s necessary in no time at all. Best of all, AppSheet is secure and tamper-proof. So students can rest assured that their data is protected and backed up in AppSheet’s cloud-based servers. Looking back, I wish we had something like this when I was a student. By streamlining the examination process, we are improving the way that students can receive floral certification in Sweden. AppSheet is a platform that any global organization can use to improve the way that they collect and process data during examinations.  

Key App Features Guaranteed to Attract Shoppers & Increase Your Sales

Do you know which app features are the most compelling for attracting shoppers and boosting sales? As retailers strive to be more compelling in an increasingly competitive market, they must rely on a number key app features that are drawing in shoppers left and right—and making the biggest impact on sales. Read through just a few of the most essential elements. Augmented reality:   Two good examples of the use of augmented reality features in mobile apps are Wayfair and Sephora. Wayfair rolled out an AR feature that allows shoppers to envision what their new furniture will look like in their home. WayfairView, the company’s first-party smartphone augmented reality application, available in Google Play. Developed by Wayfair Next, the company’s in-house research and development team, using Google’s technology, WayfairView allows shoppers to visualize furniture and décor in their homes at full-scale before they make a purchase.     “Wayfair Next is laying the groundwork for new innovations that will change the face of retail – all with first-party technology,” noted Steve Conine, co-chairman and co-founder, Wayfair. “By digitizing our vast catalog through 3-D scanning, we will dramatically improve the visualization of products to create the best possible shopping experience for our customers. With smartphone augmented reality, we can take this a step further. Built using Google’s robust Tango technology, WayfairView will allow shoppers to visualize furniture and décor in their homes by virtually placing real products from Wayfair’s extensive catalog in any room at full-scale.” Sephora allows user to apply filters to envision what their makeup will look like on their faces. The use of augmented reality in fashion helps provide a more seamless, cross-channel experience for customers who shop in-store and online. In the first eight weeks following the launch, 1.6 million customers have visited Sephora’s App and 45 million used Try-ons in the same period. The Virtual Artist mobile app allows customers to virtually test and purchase cosmetic items via their smartphone. The app allows users to “try on” lipstick shades or eyelash treatments using the front-facing camera on their mobile device.  When shoppers see a look they like, they can simply “add to basket” and purchase the items they have been modeling.     Gamification: As a society, we love gaming, and retailers who can incorporate gamification into their mobile apps are winning over customers who are addicted to the trend. Starbucks is a real winner when it comes to rewarding its customers via this technique. Starbucks rewards customers for purchasing drinks, offering discounted products for members who accumulate a certain number of points—keeping customers coming back for more. By collecting stars for each new purchase, customers can build points for free food and drinks, and unlock new rewards levels.   Beacons: In-store beacons detect when app users are nearby, alerting customers of in-store sales and offers. Beacon technology helps retailers boost in-store traffic with digital features. One successful example of beacon use is Levi’s, which has been using this feature for a while, but with mobile shopping on the rise, it has some big potential for the 2017.     “When properly used, beacon technology can be very effective, as it enables brands to capitalize on granular location data,” said Karen Pattani-Hason, director of agency relations at Urban Airship, New York. “Levi's can gather this data on their customers for use both in-store and for future campaigns. “Knowing where in-store their customers browse can provide invaluable insights on product preferences that can be used at a later date. This data could also be used to drive future traffic to stores, with relevant offers based on items the consumer has considered, based on Beacons location data.” Inventory visibility: One important use of mobile apps is to help shoppers know whether or not their desired items are in-stock or available for shipping when they want them, so inventory visibility features are crucial to keeping customers happy. AppSheet’s Store Inventory app can help small businesses to keep track of inventory items where the list is usually kept in spreadsheets with greater mobility to manage inventory and run inventory via mobile devices. The app also automatically enters dates and uses the phone/tablet camera as a bar code reader. Target and Walmart are pioneers of this feature, allowing shoppers to view the status of stock at specific locations. Having insight to this information can make or break a trip to the store for consumers. Target’s service was implemented by Washington-based tech company Point Inside, allows customers to see what’s in stock and where to find those items in the store. Shoppers can start their list using a type-head function that includes brand named items, and the app notifies customers where the product may be found in store and if it is in stock.     Walmart’s Search My Store feature also allows customers to search a particular store for specific items on their list, from electronics to groceries and more.  “Search My Store is a great example of how we are using core online capabilities, such as search, to address key pain points of our Walmart store customers,” a Walmart blog post explained. App Testing Helps Determine Success "Consumers spend more time shopping on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, than they do on desktops. To make matters more complicated, they access retail apps in a variety of different circumstances —while connected to spotty Wi-Fi, juggling between multiple devices, simultaneously running other power-hungry apps, and more. It’s hard to maintain a quality app experience through all of those variables. But through extensive app testing, companies can perfect the digital experience of their brand and stay up to speed in the competitive retail market,” explained Eran Kinsbruner, mobile technical evangelist at Perfecto. In order to ensure digital quality, apps and platforms need to undergo comprehensive pre and post-production testing across all of the unique popular devices in each retail industry. The first step is testing the functionality of the app, to make sure features and transactions are working properly and to proactively identify availability and other app issues.  Next, Kinsbruner says, developers need to “stress test the app, increasing server load in the testing environment to mimic heavy user traffic, as companies monitor for alerts in how the app handles it. These steps allow companies to detect issues with their app in real end-user conditions, before they become a problem—and lose a  customer.” “Brands that invest in a rigorous testing program can confidently bring their app to market with new features and functionality that are proven to provide a quality experience for their target audience. ….Without testing, there’s no guarantee apps will work properly for the high volume of users expected during [peak]seasons," concluded Kinsbruner. AppSheet offers a range of possibilities for retailers who are interested in making the most of their mobile retail apps.  See how AppSheet can help you integrate these key mobile app features to capitalize on sales.

Messaging Apps And Chatbots Help Retailers Connect with Customers

As customers increasingly turn to technology to showroom, price compare, and search for the best deals, retailers need to be responsive to these new consumer behaviors. One way that retailers are trying to better connect with their customers is through the increased use of chatbots and messaging apps, according to a new study from [24]7, a provider of chatbot and human agent assistance for retailers. Customers on the hunt for superior service Customers want to connect with their favorite brands, but brands that offer great service experiences are in the minority. A 2015 Customer Care Measurement & Consulting study found that 54 percent of retail customers are dissatisfied while Gartner predicted that companies offering personalization will outperform competitive brands by 15 percent by 2018 revealing the clear cut opportunity costs associated with innovation. Consumers are turning to chatbot technology as it becomes more integrated within their personal lives and evolves to provide better, more efficient and engaging customer service. Scott Horn, CMO of [24]7 stated, “Messaging apps are incredibly valuable for retailers looking to enhance relationships with consumers, particularly millennials.” Preference of chat bots to other traditional customer service outlets The [24]7 study, titled, “A Retailer’s Guide to Chatbots, Live Chat, and Messaging,” found that nearly one-third of consumers (28.9 percent) prefer chat tools over phone (28.7 percent) or email (27 percent) for interacting with retailers (jumping to 37 percent for millennials). Other findings include: 2 out of 5 consumers are open to interacting with a chatbot in a retail scenario 9 percent of millennials prefer to always interact with a robot instead of a human Nearly 40 percent of millennials are open to interacting with a company through a messaging app 1 in 5 consumers are most excited to receive instant order updates via a messaging app, over receiving other retail tech offerings, like immersive virtual experiences and drone delivery The findings demonstrate that retailers need to be flexible enough to meet the needs of their customer segments via the channels they prefer and already use in their everyday lives. Less than a quarter of millennials prefer email (23 percent) or phone (21 percent) as methods to contact retailers. Retailers who adopt channels such as Facebook Messenger is a strong path to this demographic. The growing use of messaging apps by businesses has the potential to further accelerate the trend toward chat as a primary way to communicate with retailers. In the survey, 26 percent of consumers said they're open to interacting with a company through a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp -- and the number jumps to 39 percent for millennials. Convenience (15 percent) and access to conversation history (10 percent) were the top reasons customers cited for using messaging apps, while the top concerns included security and privacy (28 percent) and distrust of third-party apps (12 percent). One in five consumers also said that instant order updates via messaging apps are the best way to improve their online shopping experience, second only to location-based coupons on mobile devices (24 percent). And providing an effortless checkout process is still crucial to driving completed sales, as 13 percent report that they would abandon a shopping cart if they could not find answers to their questions, while 15 percent say that incomplete or inaccurate product information is a serious roadblock. Chatbots can provide a more seamless checkout process and save some transactions that might otherwise be abandoned. Last spring, retail heavyweights Sephora and H&M launched bots on messaging app Kik that help shoppers browse and buy their products, and Taco Bell showed off its TacoBot, a way to use the messaging app Slack to place a meal order. Facebook also announced that it has created a platform that allows companies to develop bots that run within its Messenger app, which has some 900 million users worldwide. Bots are the new apps Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said, “Bots are the new apps.” The case for a bot-centric future goes like this: Smartphone users have proved they are only willing to download and spend time in a limited number of apps. So companies might be better off trying to connect with consumers in the apps where they are already spending plenty of time. And proponents say that a bot can potentially provide greater convenience than apps and Web searches because it can understand natural speech patterns. Because bots are designed for one-to-one conversation, they may ultimately find their most logical home in messaging apps, which are seeing explosive growth in users and are the digital-communication channel of choice for Generation Z. There were 76 million people in the United States using messaging apps such as Kik, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in 2014, according to research firm eMarketer.  That figure shot up to 113 million last year, and is it expected to surge to 177 million by 2019. The study asserted, “Although chatbots cannot resolve transactional hurdles at purchase like price and delivery, they can help customers find desired information, fill out fields based on prior purchases and answer queries. With the right solution, anything more complex can be escalated to a live human agent.” Let AppSheet work with you to develop a relevant app that can incorporate the elements that will best reach your customers today. With AppSheet, retailers can design affordable, easy and attractive mobile apps to improve your customers’ shopping experience. Give it a try today!

With 80% Of Purchases Now Influenced By Mobile, Your Business Needs To Meet Demands

Increasingly, your customers, employees and service users expect a fast and intuitive mobile experience. Eighty percent of purchases are now influenced by mobile. If you fail to meet these expectations, users will quickly turn away. Meeting expanding customer expectations Research demonstrates that 62 percent of consumers expect a mobile friendly website, while 42 percent expect a mobile app, and 23 percent expect a location specific contextual experience.  Further, 86 percent favor mobile apps over mobile websites, and with 80 percent of purchases now influenced by the mobile channel for a projected $689 billion influence on sales, your business cannot afford to be left behind when it comes to mobile. A 2015 AppDynamics report An App Is Not Enough  found that consumer expectations of retail websites and mobile apps are evolving in response to the growth of mobile and emerging technologies, with 70 percent of consumers stating that the performance of a mobile app impacts their perception of the retailer. Further, two thirds of consumers said they would reconsider shopping with a retailer if they had a negative experience with its app. That places greater pressure on brands to deliver flawless app performance to keep their customers happy. “As the lines between work and personal, digital and physical, continue to blur, retailers must ensure their apps function at all times across multiple platforms in order to retain and nurture always-on consumers,” said Jyoti Bansal, founder and CEO of AppDynamics. “Technology has transformed the retail landscape significantly over the past decade, and now more than ever, software defines business success – with revenue and reputation often hinging on customer interactions with apps.” Providing seamless cross-channel experiences “Today’s consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across online and offline channels, with minimal friction points,” said Paul Hobbs, head of e-commerce at Shop Direct. “This puts increased pressure on retailers to innovate, using the latest technologies to improve and augment the online e-commerce journey so it delivers the thrill of visiting the high street in a more convenient way. As an example, has recently introduced image recognition technology that allows shoppers to take photos of clothes they like and search for similar styles across the brand’s product range.” “At the same time, mobile continues to play an integral role in increasing online sales – allowing consumers to shop when they want, how they want, and on any device,” Hobbs continued. “With retailers using a combination of technologies to deliver a competitive and flawless experience to shoppers, ensuring the performance of these applications is mission-critical.” Tips For Creating A Top Mobile Experience There were 2.1 billion mobile phones and tablets sold around the world in 2014, and by 2020 there will be a projected 200 billion connected devices. Here are some tips to help create a successful mobile experience that is fast, intuitive, and satisfies the demands of your customers. Start with a clear mobile strategy that aligns all internal stakeholders. Identify the user journey, defining the phases of their experiences from beginning to end to understand their context. Build personals and clearly identify your audience. Clearly define business goals that you are trying to achieve via the app. Is it boosting loyalty, sales conversions or recommendations? Identify the analytics to track and drive feature prioritization to ensure you are meeting your established business goals. Set a feature roadmap. This helps create the optimal user experience. Build with iterative development that connects all internal and external data points. Once your app is complete, don’t forget to use analytics to track and improve your app continually to ensure continued user satisfaction and cohesion to business goals. From beginning to end, the process of bringing your mobile app to life should be thoughtful, calculated, and specific,  tailored to your audience and  your business’ goals. AppSheet can help your business create simple, user-friendly mobile apps that are customized to meet your specific goals.

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”: 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.

5 Tips to Improve Your Mobile Experience Before the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner, and the retail industry is preparing for their busiest season of the year. Although the holiday rush is nothing new, retail has seen a shift in the way consumers engage with their brands and buy their products, largely thanks to mobile. Consumers will be using their mobile devices to purchase and interact with brands over the holidays whether the company is ready or not, but there’s still time to prepare! To help us understand how the use of retail mobile apps is evolving, especially before the holidays, Apptentive recently conducted a consumer survey of 252 people between the ages of 18-65 who use iPhone and Androids daily. We’ll highlight some survey results, along with the implications for retailers as we approach the holiday shopping season. Let’s dive in! Mobile shopping around the holidays (and beyond) has changed By now, it’s no surprise that consumers use retail mobile apps. Our survey revealed that 88% of consumers use them. It’s also no surprise that consumers use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store. 55% of people who use retail mobile apps said they use them while shopping in-store. However, the reasons consumers use retail mobile apps is shifting.     The ability to make purchases directly in apps has been around for several years, which has given consumers time to embrace the new channel. Now that consumers are comfortable using mobile apps to buy, the number of people who are doing so is increasing rapidly. Retail sales on smartphones grew by 54% between 2014 and 2015. But while consumers still use apps to enhance their in-app experience, that’s not all they’re using them for. People are actually using retail apps to shop. Now that so many purchases are made via mobile apps, retailers need to make sure their mobile experiences are living up to consumer expectations. What consumers expect from retail apps has changed Thanks to the internet and smartphones, the world is more connected than ever. This has transformed our shopping experiences and our expectations of the brands we love. Since consumers use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store, a number of retailers have capitalized on and contributed to increasing expectations by finding ways to seamlessly connect their digital and physical experiences. Now that consumers are using mobile apps to actually make purchases, not just supplement their in-store shopping experiences, retailers need to invest in creating standalone mobile customer experiences now.     With the upcoming holiday season upon us, retailers can beef up their mobile strategies to support consumer expectations. Our survey found 65% of people who use retail mobile apps plan on using  them for at least some of their holiday shopping, and 10% of consumers plan on using retail apps for almost all of their holiday shopping.This includes consumers who plan on making purchases in the app, and using apps to aid their in-store shopping needs. Many retailers have mastered the in-app experience (think Amazon, Starbucks, and eBay), so it’s extremely apparent to consumers when the experience is bad. Consumers have little patience for bad mobile experiences, and if a mobile app doesn’t live up to their expectations, customers will ditch the app in favor of retailers who have great mobile experiences. 5 Tips to improve your mobile experience this holiday season The need for a seamless mobile customer experience is more important than ever before. So what can retailers do to improve? Here are five tips to get you started: 1. Sync your mobile app with your loyalty program Allowing customers to earn reward or loyalty points by using your mobile app (something they’re already doing) not only improves their customer experience, it increases loyalty. By rewarding customers for using your mobile app, you add extra incentive for them to make purchases in the app, and decrease the likelihood they’ll favor shopping with a competitor. 2. Ask for customer feedback  Asking customers for feedback increases your ability to problem solve without guessing. Are customers abandoning their shopping cart, but you don’t know why? Don’t waste time trying to deduce all of the different possibilities as to why this is an issue. Ask customers in the app as soon as they abandon their cart. Ultimately, it will save you time and enable you to implement a solution quickly—reducing the amount of potential revenue lost. 3. Make your payment process easier  The ability to easily pay for purchases in a mobile app is in high demand. If the payment process is cumbersome, customers are more likely to abandon their shopping cart. Retailers that make buying easy (such as Amazon) reap the monetary rewards of their efforts. The quicker customers can check out, and happier they’ll be! 4. Connect online and in-store experiences The importance of a positive mobile customer experience extends beyond purchases in the app. Our research shows 55% of people who use retail mobile apps have used them to browse, then purchase in-store at least once in the last month (we call this “approoming”). Not only does the mobile app experience need to be a standalone experience, it should also connect seamlessly with consumers’ physical experiences. 5. Measure and track customer sentiment All companies want their customers to love them, but how do you know if you’ve earned that accolade without measuring customer love? It’s difficult to understand how your customers receive your brand, and how much they enjoy your customer experience, without consistently tracking customer sentiment. Supplemental to customer feedback, measuring customer sentiment will help teams across your organization learn and make business decisions. Your product, quality assurance, engineering, market research, and marketing teams all stand to gain insights from customer sentiment tracking. Wrapping it up It’s never too late to continue investing in mobile, but investment in retail mobile user experience is more important now than ever before. Before the holiday rush sets in, take time to revisit your mobile app strategy to ensure you’re providing the best possible experience for your customers. This is the perfect month to begin this process, so don’t delay!

How to Design an App to Snag the Best Black Friday Deals

Holiday shopping isn’t a pastime, it’s a sport. And like any sport it takes time, training, education, and a distinctive strategy to play at the top of your game. For those who want to make the most of the hours dedicated to this necessary activity or desire to get the biggest bang for your buck, free app builders just may be the best tool in your arsenal. On Black Friday in 2015, 74.2 million shoppers bravely faced other determined bargain hunters to score the best deals and nearly 35 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day. That's more than 25.6 million who went out in 2014. However, with so many stores competing for your dollars and with the sensory overload that is bound to happen, how do you stay on track? Prepping for the Big Day First of all, a mobile app can help you to create a to-do list ahead of time. You may want to include a list of people you need to buy for, how much you plan to spend per person, brainstorm gift ideas and visit websites to read reviews, get information on which stores have the best (or worst) return policies, and find a shopping buddy if you have heavy items to carry or transport (like that big screen TV). Additionally, you might consider creating a Day of List so you’ll remember to have a fully charged phone (to message your buddy from across the store, do some price checking, and update your gift list) and take snacks to refuel, and bring bags if you live in an area where you have to provide your own. If the store you’re going to provides a price match guarantee, you can install the camera function in your app to take a picture of the ads so you won't have the additional burden of carrying a newspaper ad with you. This also is a great tool for organizing receipts for rebates or if you are buying gifts for nonprofit organizations. Comparison Shopping Comparison shopping is just about the hardest part in the entire Black Friday process. There are some great apps out there that do just that: SlickDeals have members post the very best deals they find and lets you monitor on-the-spot deals that quickly go out of stock. You can also set alerts so that if another member finds what you’re looking for, you’ll know right away. Flipp is an all-in-one flyer, coupon, and price tracker for your smartphone. Flipp allows you to easily add coupons from various store circulars and print them via email so that you can plan your entire Black Friday strategy. Shopular is handles all the deal alerts and keeps track of your coupons, cash back rewards, and other loyalty perks in the process and lets you use them directly from your smartphone when checking out. There are also great websites to help you during this process. Check out to scroll through current ads for the holiday season including Sam’s Club, Dell, Toys R Us, and more. They also provide buying guides from televisions to Microsoft products so you can compare items and determine what goes on your list. Pocket-Lint also has a great compilation of the best priced electronics for Black Friday 2016 from top retailers. However, with all of this comparison shopping, who can keep track of all of the numbers and which store had which low price? Creating your app can help you sort out all of these details as you comparison shop and you can also add a category to alert you if you have a money-saving coupon or rewards card to use. Day Of Strategy From here you can map out the order of stores you wish to visit based on items most likely to sell out (like those insanely discounted electronics) to places that you might like to hit (maybe you want to purchase Christmas cards or wrapping paper from CVS). Your starting point may differ based on the location nearest to you or the place with the highest concentration of retailers. You can even include GPS capabilities on your app to visualize the most efficient routes and even mark them done and move on once you’ve got all of the items you needed. With AppSheet, you can make it so that once you've completed a task, you can mark it with a different font color, icon, etc. Finally, when the day is over, you can update your app as you analyze your purchases, ensure that you stayed on budget, and sort receipts for potential returns. If you forgot to include someone on your list or ended up under budget, you still have Cyber Monday to get more great deals! According to a Gallup Poll, the average person planned to spend $830 for Christmas 2015. For this holiday season, retail e-commerce revenues are projected to amount to $94.71 billion which is  a 17.2 percent increase from last year. From teachers to spouses to all the children who dream of Christmas morning or Hanukkah, you probably have already started writing up your gift list in your head. Using these tips to create a spreadsheet app will make this the best gift-giving year yet!

Tips for Creating a Successful E-Commerce App

According to, “In 2016, 2017 and 2018, sources say the total projected U.S. retail ecommerce sales will come in around $392.5, $440.4, and $491.5 billion, respectively.” While technology is making the global marketplace smaller and increasingly accessible, it is also making competition extremely fierce. To create a successful e-commerce business, it takes more than a great product to attract and keep customers. Mobile app development can help you to run both the front and back end of your business to ensure that your customers are having a great user experience and that you are running your business efficiently. A/B Testing With the many website creators available online, it can be tempting to throw one together in a day and post it live. However, if your product needs some adjustments, the price points are too high or the website isn’t appealing, you’ll actually be losing customers instead of building a faithful clientele. Creating a mobile app and organizing the different parts of your business can aid in establishing a strong voice and appeal to your potential customers. As Wikipedia explains, “on an e-commerce website the purchase funnel is typically a good candidate for A/B testing, as even marginal improvements in drop-off rates can represent a significant gain in sales. Significant improvements can sometimes be seen through testing elements like copy text, layouts, images and colors.” From there you can take notes on your app to determine what was most appealing, what could use more brainstorming and which areas you should work on to stand out in the crowd. Asking your customers what’s important to them and testing different incentives or products will give you valuable insight that most certainly will surprise you. These one-on-one conversations and personal interactions may just change the way you present your business and increase your chances for success! Mobile Storefront Innovation is only limited by imagination, and it’s truly mind boggling to consider the plethora of apps available. Some recent ones that are gaining in popularity are e-commerce storefronts that run from downloadable apps. Many boutique-like businesses are popping up displaying specially curated outfits, handmade accessories, or a collection of the most popular electronics that can be purchased from just one site. These mobile catalogs have Instagram-like images, succinct descriptions, and click-to-pay options that make shopping fast, convenient, and increasingly popular. ( has some great examples to gather ideas from as you build your mobile storefront.) Don’t Stop Evolving Regardless of your product or service, there are countless ideas that probably cross your path on a daily basis. With an app creator, you can input and sort your ideas on the go and access them when you are ready to work on a specific project. For example, if you own an online women’s boutique and you’re perusing the mall, you could take pictures of the latest trends, styling ideas or inspiring ways to photograph your products. You may want to note prices, special offers, and incentives that are bringing in the customers. When you are ready to make your next purchase order or have a photo shoot scheduled for the upcoming season, you can scan through your app to get fresh ideas and to brainstorm new possibilities. “Successful entrepreneurs never stop learning. You always have to think of different ways to spark your creativity. Sometimes going outside of your own industry will help you develop an idea. Consumer behavior and tastes change often and you need to stay ahead of the trends to ensure business survival,” explains Jose Costa in The Huffington Post. Being an e-commerce entrepreneur is wrought with challenges, but the rewards are only limited by one’s ability to learn, adapt and adjust. E-commerce apps are allowing daring business people to connect with larger audiences and manage their company from anywhere in the world. With such powerful tools available, we are undoubtedly at the beginning stages of mobile commerce.