In the era of direct-to-consumer, social commerce, performance marketing and marketplace plays, you’d be forgiven for thinking that apps belong in 2011. It can be easy for marketers to become overly focused on new channels that are creating additional revenue. However, according to Accenture’s 9th wave of Covid consumer research, two in three consumers continue to use brand apps for ordering. Apps remain an important part of retailers’ overall digital engagement strategies, even as t
s the digital landscape has become more crowded and more sophisticated and customer touchpoints become increasingly fragmented and intermediated. Given how consumers’ relationships with brands have become intermediated — for instance, by gig-economy delivery companies — having a direct digital line to consumers, one that is personalised, data-rich and brand-specific, is more useful than ever. However, building and deploying an app in 2021 is part of a far more complex and multifaceted consideration than it was a decade ago. You must take the time to carefully map and understand your customers’ relationship with your brand and enhance that relationship as part of a broader brand and digital strategy. Our Covid consumer research reveals that some of the fastest-growing channels for consumers are live-streaming (33 per cent) and social commerce (36 per cent). Your app strategy should be connected to these novel and fast-growing brand touchpoints. When customers enter your brand ecosystem through various touchpoints, you maximise your ability to personalise your relationships with them. When every moment is made shoppable, you increase the chance of conversion. The ultimate goal of a retail brand strategy is to create deep, personal, lasting relationships with customers across brand touchpoints. You should draw on available data from all brand interactions to develop insights into your customers’ behaviours, preferences and profiles to determine how your app can enhance and deepen their relationship with you. A good example of the integration of digital strategies from a customer-facing brand can be seen in the activation that Coca-Cola undertook in 2020. By iterating ita long-running personalisation of labels on bottles in stores, the brand invited users to post selfies with the hashtag #shareacoke. By integrating a brand marketing campaign, a personalisation strategy and presence on new and emerging digital touchpoints, Coca-Cola was able to meet consumers where they already were, in the moments that mattered, to produce a deep, personalised and delightful experience. The mechanics of a strategy will be different for retailers to those of an FMCG company, and they will be different between retail categories and brands. The important takeaway is the need to approach a fragmented digital landscape with a personal, ongoing, and seamless brand experience with end consumers in mind. For brands operating on a patchwork of legacy systems, this can be challenging. Consumers don’t care about the legacy issues in your tech stack — they want a convenient, continuous and meaningful experience across touchpoints. Retailers should ensure that their technology, however it is configured, enables them to deliver highly memorable and engaging moments. This means producing a single, unified and dynamic picture of the consumer to drive connected experiences. You should be able to produce coherent and connected experiences across channels to support storytelling with your consumers wherever you are meeting them. Research shows that 64 per cent of customers will switch brands for a more relevant experience, making this is mission-critical for retailers. For beauty retailer Mecca, live-streaming is an important piece of its relationship with customers. The rise of makeup tutorials has seen beauty consumers become organically video-oriented. Mecca has extended its customer service ethos to digital channels to meet its consumers in the moments that matter, recognising that they already prefer to consume relevant video content. The brand’s decision to extend customer service to live-streaming within its app — where customers can chat in real-time and add products directly to their basket — extends its brand drivers to digital touchpoints and keeps an ongoing human connection with customers throughout the brand’s digital offerings. Each moment is personal, relevant, engaging and shoppable. The hype that “apps are back” is clearly true. But it’s no longer a case of “build the app and promote it to consumers”. Retailers must integrate their app into their broader brand and engagement strategy, link them back to their brand values, and proceed with a strategic awareness of how their app will contribute to a seamless, personal and connected customer experience.