There's an app for that.
Apple's iconic 2009 tagline for the iPhone 3G is now a ubiquitous catchphrase. Looking for grocery coupons? There are a few apps for that. Want to improve your sleep? Yep, there are apps for that, too.
Apps have become so huge that even brick-and-mortar brands are capitalizing on this trend. Among the 900,000 applications available for download on the App Store, you'll find apps from Walmart, Burberry and Nordstrom.
But as I pointed out in a recent Integrated Solutions for Retailers article, the market is so competitive that releasing mediocre apps won't cut it anymore. When developing apps, the end users' experience needs to be top of mind. That's why some brands put their customers' need front and center when working on their apps, as these three terrific examples show:
When Target recently revamped its iPhone app, the retailer focused on improving the app's navigation for its customers. Realizing that customers need to find what they are looking for on the app more quickly, Target introduced a panel that slides out from the left side of the screen, replacing a drawer navigation at the bottom of the screen.
"We believe [slide panel navigation] is intuitive for guests and allows us to provide easier access to more tools and functionality," Eddie Baeb, a spokesman for Target, Minneapolis, explained when he talked about the retailer's newly redesigned app.
Target and other retailers are aware that customers use their smartphones in stores to compare prices and sometimes to even buy online from another vendor, but they understand that it is better to give shoppers the information they want.
Aware that consumers are not happy with apps from competing brands, National Car recently turned to its community of power users to build a better rental app. The company recorded the reactions of 300 repeat customers to mock-ups, using that input to make sure that the app meets the customers' priorities.
"What we really wanted to do was talk to our members and not rely on what everyone else had done," said Rob Connors, National Car's assistant vice president of marketing, when he talked to Forbes about the app.
The result was an app that that provided an end-to-end rental tracker, following the life of its customers' rentals. This is a much more sophisticated and useful app than what the company's competitors are offering. The success of National Car's app shows the value of engaging a community of customers in the work of designing or fine-tuning your mobile projects.
When developing its tablet app, JetBlue asked customers to voice their opinions. The company knew that for the app to make an impact, it needed to deliver a product that actually provided value to customers.
"Just because something new comes along that seems really cool and different, doesn't necessarily mean it will add value and be an improvement," said Jonathan Stephen, JetBlue's Head of Mobile and Emerging Technologies, when he recently talked about the company's efforts in mobile. "We just need to make sure we keep focused on the customer experience." As consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones for information, JetBlue aims to provide everything passengers need through their mobile apps.
With the mobile revolution not showing any signs of slowing down and with the path to purchase becoming more nuanced than ever, apps will continue to help reshape retail. As Target, JetBlue and National Car demonstrate, for brands to take advantage of apps, thoughtful consideration is required where the customers' needs is prioritized and met.