Apps are part of our day-to-day lives, we use them to communicate, manage our banking, order our food and transport, order products and services. It’s no surprise that brands are integrating Apps into their existing loyalty program as a way to reach and target their customer base.
According to Business of Apps, there were over 2.2 million apps available in the iOS App Store in May this year. This number increasing daily. Yet, 77% of users report never using an App again 72 hours after installing it¹.
If you’re considering integrating an App into your loyalty program, you must have a clear strategy to compete in this competitive mobile real estate. It’s also vital you do not disrupt your existing loyalty program, the execution must be seamless.
Validate why you need an App before you build it
Does your loyalty program even need an App? A lot of brands feel pressure to launch an App simply because their competitors have one, and they rush to launch without clear validation and research. There are alternative options available at a lower cost of ownership, such as a digital membership card. Molly Standfield, Senior Program Manager at Customology added “brands can use a digital card as a test pilot to understand the success of going digital with their existing customers and their appetite to move away from the status quo.”
What problem will your App solve? How will it enhance the customer experience? How will it enable you to continue the conversation with the customer and deliver hyper-personalised experiences? These are the type of questions you need to be answering. If your answers all come down to your competitor having one, then you are not making the right investment for the growth of your loyalty program.
Research, Research, Research
This is so important. Don’t build an App with the brand front of mind, and what you think customers will like. Conduct extensive research to find out what they really like and value. This can be done a number of ways:
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – take an outside in perspective, see things from the customers view to learn how the App could really add value and benefit the customer.
Seek customer feedback – ask a selection of your loyal customers for their thoughts and input into the App, show them how much you care about getting it right. Ask your frontline staff for their input, they understand the customer better than anyone.
Read app reviews – learn from both negative and positive reviews, find out what customers appreciate and what frustrates them. Learn from other brands successes and failures.
User experience – it’s important to review competitor apps to learn what their App UX is like, but also look beyond your competitors and to other sectors for best practice. Ensure operational efficiency and simplicity.
In an ideal world, everyone of your customers will love your app, however in reality, that won’t be the case. You need to be prepared for negative feedback and rejection. Consider how each of your segmented customer groups will respond, and have a response plan ready. Some segments simply won’t use it, and will prefer to use the existing membership card. The last thing you want to do is upset your loyal customers. Listen to their feedback, empower your staff to deal with customer complaints and resolution. Be prepared to keep optimising the App based on any appropriate feedback.
Integrated marketing communications
Having a clear communications strategy for your customers is absolutely key to successful integration. Your customers need to understand how the App will work, the additional value they will receive in using it and the impact on their current use of the loyalty program. You need to keep things simple, don’t overcomplicate the launch, or overestimate how customers will react. An App is a small tool in the ongoing conversation you are having with your customers. Also, remember that Apps work in a similar way to websites, ensure it is SEO optimised so your customers can search easily.
Train every member of your staff on how to use the App, explaining the benefit to the customer. They are on the frontline speaking with customers day-in, day-out, they are your strongest marketing channel. Encourage them to promote the App, so it can be easily executed in store.
Don’t force the App onto the customer. It’s their choice how they engage with the loyalty program.
There are many considerations if you are thinking about integrating an App into your existing loyalty program. But first and foremost, understand your ‘why’. Why do we need this app? Why will this benefit our customers? It’s a large investment, so you need to be doing it for the right reasons. Natalie Brennan, General Manager at Muffin Break told us “we see the Muffin Break App as a key part of our connection with our customers. It’s important to us that they can easily understand the membership benefits, and can enjoy the rewards.”
Conduct lots of research, only fools rush in. Take your time to ensure you get it right. We’ve seen brands launch Apps which were quickly rejected by their customers, getting a second chance from them is no easy feat if their initial experience was a poor one.
Ensure seamless integration with all of the loyalty program’s existing channels. Give the customer the choice. Ensure your staff are equipped with the support they need. Empower them to promote the App in store, and help customers understand the benefit to them.
¹ Android Authority