In "Getting Started with Responsive Web Design," my previous article, I stated that there are instances when building a separate mobile app can be beneficial for your ecommerce business. In this article, I will expand on that to present instances where building a mobile app is a good option.
1. Utilize Native Features of the Mobile Device
Many successful apps have been developed to leverage the native features of mobile devices, such as location-based services, camera, bar code scanner, and QR code scanner. If your business can benefit from using these native features, then building a mobile app is a sound and obvious investment.
The most popular native features in apps launched by retailers are store locator, camera, and scanning of bar codes and QR codes. Push notifications are another native feature that is heavily used by retailers in their apps, as it allows them to inform their customers of upcoming events, promotions and new product releases. Push notifications work even when the app is not in use — recognizing that the customer has to first approve the app to send these notifications.
An example of a mobile app using the store locator can be seen in the screenshot of the Target mobile app, below.
Native features, at times, help an organization build a new business. For example, an app called TurboScan uses an iPhone or iPad to scan documents into PDF format.
2. Utilize Features for Mobile Customers
A business can benefit by offering an app that focuses on key usage scenarios for the mobile consumers. For example, a mobile consumer will likely prefer using image search or bar code product search, versus keyword product search. A mobile consumer will also prefer minimal data entry or gesture recognition. And a mobile consumer is likely to engage in gaming.
Amazon does an excellent job of having targeted features for a mobile customer in the "Price Check" mobile app, which allows a mobile consumer to search for products using keywords, bar code search, image search, or voice search.
3. Segment Your Mobile Customers
You can create segments based on the type of mobile devices used by consumers. This can be combined with the location and the device's operating system to create additional segments. You can create different mobile apps for different devices to cater to different customer segments. This allows optimizing the app for each device by offering the best features, user experience, and performance. The app can also be customized based on the customer profile associated with a device. For example, users of the Samsung Galaxy S are likely "value buyers." Users of the Nokia Lumia 900 are likely "early adopters."
Segmentation becomes even more important with a global consumer base, as there are more devices and operating systems worldwide that need to be supported.