Woman using mobile device

Retaining mobile app users continues to be the golden fleece that alludes most brands. While many brands have made a lot of traction in the past year with better app experiences and more engaging, personalised push and in-app messages, for many brands the retention problem still looms.

Now, however, there is a new generation of apps that understand how people want to shop. Take the recently announced M&S app called Mobile, Pay, Go which enables customers to do just that, from their own phones. M&S knows people are busy at lunchtime and want to get in and out and pay using Apple Pay or a card on their Sparks account. Instead of packing the app with features, M&S has solved a simple but compelling problem that gives its customers value, and, in turn, helps M&S manage busy traffic flows.

Crucially, it’s not about modifying behaviour by pointing customers in the direction of the app but enabling them to do what they are already doing – but faster and more conveniently. This counts for a whole range of activities involved in the shopping journey. For instance, enabling customers to take full control of their deliveries by letting them stay in the same app for all delivery updates and all communications with the retailer/carrier. Alternatively, apps that combine browsing with ordering and returns, personalised promotions, social media and add-ons such as games, that together are complementary to the journey.

Sephora, the US beauty retailer, gets right to the point as soon as customers connect; they don’t mess about asking customers where they want to go next; on opening, the app lists favourite products that the customer reorders, and ask if they need a refill. When they walk into a store, they get a push notification reminding them to use their loyalty card. And, to make everything easier, they add virtual fitting rooms so customers can see what products will look like on them.

There’s no suggestion that apps are dead. Sure, the early birds didn’t quite end up catching the worm, but they did, at least, give way to a new generation of smart apps that drive traffic, drive revenue and drive loyalty. I’ll download that one any day.