Loyalty Customers Gravitate To Brands' Mobile Apps

Loyal customers tend to like mobile apps.

However, loyalty marketers seem to be a bit behind when it comes to using mobile for reward delivery.

After all these years of mobile marketing, it would be expected that retailers had developed solid mobile relationships with their best customers.

Retailers have told me that app downloads and usage tended to be more by loyal customers. This makes total sense, since with so many apps, consumers would seem more likely to stick with the apps of the companies they like (or at least deal with) the most.

Numerous research studies also have shown that most mobile commerce happens via mobile Web site rather than apps. However, those findings generally don’t distinguish between loyalty customers and what might be a one-time buyer at a particular store.

It turns out that two times more loyalty program members use a brand’s mobile app compared to non-loyalty members, based on a recent study of mobile loyalty conducted by Forrester Research. The study comprised a survey of 7,100 U.S. online adults who use a smartphone and are loyalty program members.

With smartphone adoption in the U.S. projected to hit 94% of the population by the end of this year, there is obviously more total phone usage in the shopping process.

The average smartphone owner spends more than an hour a day interacting with apps and more than a third (36%) researching physical goods on their devices at least once a week, according to Forrester. This is consistent with other studies, some of which also note that much of that mobile product researching activity actually happens in a physical store.

But the big mobile app action is with loyalty program members. For example, most (95%) of bookings through the IHG app are from IHG Rewards Club members, and more than half (55%) of the marketing messages that the company sends are first opened on a mobile device.

However, although loyalty customers gravitate to mobile apps, many companies are not geared to best serve them.

Fewer than half of loyalty marketers are even piloting or using mobile reward delivery, based on a separate survey of 360 loyalty marketers conducted by Forrester.

Marketers tend to still be in experimentation mode -- many viewing mobile as just another channel through which they can message consumers. Some also are torn between the native app and mobile Web site, although the reality is that they need to be doing both.

In addition, most marketers tend to base their personalization efforts on static profile data provided by the customer. For example, 63% of marketers track their mobile customers across other channels, but only 16% use a loyalty program to do it.

Even more significant is that only 10% of marketers consider their companies to be mobile-savvy organizations.

The researchers found that loyalty teams either provide a data feed into the app or potentially develop their own mobile presence or apps, which can lead to inconsistent and confusing customer experiences.

The hard reality is that some store networks are outdated, hardware is expensive to upgrade and the installation and adoption of new technologies such as beacons is still relatively low.

One obvious opportunity for retailers to target loyalty customers on mobile is to leverage a combination of location, past mobile purchase activity and available offers, which can lead customers to highly relevant products.

Loyalty customers seem to know what they want: more action through their smartphone apps from their favorite companies.

Now, if those companies would just go more all in on mobile.

This column was originally published in MobileShopTalk on May 31, 2016.

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