Only 40% of U.S. consumers consider the apps they use to be “customer focused,” according to a recent survey conducted by Google and Qualtrics. That means the other 60% view their apps as less than customer-centric.
How can that be the case today, where everything marketers do serves — or should serve — customers? The finding indicates that marketers should ask themselves what they’re doing to ensure that the apps they create keep the customer at the heart of everything.
For example, consider the retail category. Of 4.3 million items in the App Store, 103,200, or 2.4%, are for shopping. That means the odds of any particular shopping app making it onto a consumer’s phone are just .002%.
In addition, of course, consumer behavior has fundamentally shifted since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, notes Imma Calvo, managing director of apps at Google. “As a result, apps have assumed an entirely new level of importance in the consumer journey,” she says. “The possibilities for connecting with users have never been richer or more rewarding — and the landscape has never been more crowded.” At the same time, users’ expectations of brands have significantly increased, she says: “Businesses with an app can maximize the opportunity by innovating to create unique, delightful, frictionless experiences users will turn to again and again.”
The research findings indicate that incorporating the following three key insights into your app strategy can help you land that coveted spot on consumers’ phones.
1. App loyalty comes down to speed and ease of use. Forty-two percent of survey respondents cited those two attributes as the main reason for moving from one app to another. They outrank other reasons, such as having a rewards program (cited by 40%) and offering better discounts or deals (cited by 39%).
Speed is the new currency. If consumers can’t accomplish a task quickly and easily with one app, they’ll find another that can do what they want. For that reason, improving app user experience offers a key opportunity for all marketers. Think of it as a “return on experience.” Who wants to lose a loyal customer to something that can be fixed?
2. Consumers expect constant innovation. Forty-seven percent of consumers expect app updates to be made daily or weekly. The good news: Updates don’t necessarily require complicated overhauls. Instead, they can involve relatively simple step-by-step changes designed to constantly improve customer experience.
For instance, consider what Shein does. About every two or three weeks, the China-based apparel retailer releases a new version of its shopping app. Whether the latest version is running a simple bug fix or creating a new look and feel for the app, Shein’s test-and-iterate approach constantly improves its users’ experience.
3. App success requires personalizing customer experiences. Sixty-five percent of consumers crave personalized experiences, according to the survey. So think about how you can provide those individualized experiences both overall and within the app — for instance, by pre-filling information, showcasing products based on previous purchases or viewing behavior, or reaching them on the web with relevant information. The more information you have on customer segments and preferences, the better equipped you’ll be to improve the user experience — and, ultimately, better serve those customers.
Finally, marketers should keep an eye on one trend that’s likely to be a major force in the coming year: the super app. Super apps allow customers to complete multiple tasks within a single app. Uber is a great example; it allows users to order food and book a ride in one seamless experience.
According to the survey, 54% of U.S. adults are interested in super apps. Among Gen Z respondents (those born since 1997), 66% expressed interest. Underlying that finding is an important reminder: Building for future customers is just as important as serving the customers of today. To that end, smart marketers should consider upgrading their single-task apps to suites of offerings. (For one major company’s take on app strategy in general — and super apps in particular — see this Q&A with Meng Chee, chief product officer for Walmart).
In summary: Consumers will continue to place high value on speed, innovation, and personalization in 2022. As they spend more time with mobile devices and apps, it’s imperative that marketers prioritize customer-centricity. Learning from data, understanding consumers’ changing interests, and continually improving customer experiences with apps will ultimately drive better business outcomes.