Apps for useful services

There’s nothing new about apps anymore, but next year retailers will strive to develop apps that fulfil a genuine need and provide a valuable service for customers.

Imagine an app that converts recipes into shopping lists of products available at your chosen supermarket, and re-orders the shopping list to reflect the layout of the particular supermarket a customer is in. No more trawling aimlessly up and down the aisles looking for freeze dried horseradish and inevitably forgetting toilet roll.

Apps with a purpose that provide services shoppers really want will emerge as retailers realise that merely having mobile strategy is not enough.

Some brands are leading the way. Boots’ Christmas app and eBay’s fashion app are both examples that offer a benefit for shoppers and seamlessly integrate offline and online shopping because they were clearly developed with shoppers’ real behaviour front of mind. This gives consumers a reason to use the apps and return to them again and again, rather than being used once and forgotten.

Loyalty, data and personalisation

Due to the strength of data, loyalty and personalisation are two sides of the same coin and if approached in the right manner, that coin will be incredibly valuable for brands in 2013, not just to build relationships with consumers but to drive sales.


Despite many established loyalty schemes expanding with online and digital elements, most remain at the heart a plastic card stuffed into a wallet. In 2013, we’ll hopefully see this change.

We’re fast approaching the tipping point for loyalty schemes integrating with mobile and living beyond collector cards.

Schemes such as Tesco Clubcard, Nectar and Boots Advantage are heading towards the point where they can connect up their huge data repositories with smartphones, in-store WiFi, geo-location data, mobile coupons and purchase technology.

With this kind of inter-connected data, and the pre-requisite opt in from consumers, brands can target shoppers with personalised offers based on their own purchase behaviour when they are within stores, or even when they walk down certain aisle within a supermarket or department store.

Think a money off coupon from Kellogg’s sent directly to a smart phone triggered by geo-location data when a shopper reaches the cereal aisle in Tesco.

Multichannel – in reverse

Five years ago, pureplay retailers such as Asos, eBay and Amazon were the darlings of the retail world and casting doubt on the future of the high street. Most high street retailers would still kill for the kind of growth reported by the likes of Asos, but the shift in multichannel means that now pureplay retailers are missing a vital ingredient.

A number of pureplays have dabbled in ways to bring their brand into the physical world and this is something that will accelerate in 2013.

Amazon has played around with lockers, Littlewoods and Ocado have used windows and storefronts while eBay is testing pop-ups.


Pop up shops and digital windows that use tools such as augmented reality, QR codes and mobile apps to bring digital retailers to life are just the beginning of this reversal from digital only to multichannel.

Social shopping experience

Social shopping – where social media, mobile and commerce come together – will be a big theme in 2012 and brands that can provide value for their customers and ways to combine insight from these areas will do well.

The concept of social shopping transcends on and offline and is not just about social media but about the real-life experience.

Shopping is more than the process of finding a product and making a purchase. Because there are so many more channels for consumers to buy items, a trip to the shops is not necessarily about transacting, it has become a social experience.

Shopping has become a hobby or past time for most people and retail marketers must accept this and find ways to enhance both the experience a consumer has with the brand in-store by offering more than a shop. Expect efforts to make stores hubs for communities and social activities and in-store events to make a resurgence next year as a result.

Digital stores boost customer service

Trends and the latest fads come and go but one thing that never goes out of fashion in retail is good customer service.

Stores will naturally become more digitally enabled nest year as retailers ramp up multichannel efforts, but a good multichannel experience will enhance every aspect of the shopping experience, not just with tools that help customers, but for sales assistants too. There should be no excuse now for ill-informed and unhelpful store staff.

Far from being the death knell for sales assistants and high street shopping, everyday technology such as iPads for staff on the shop floor enables them to access almost unlimited information in real time to provide better service. M&S and John Lewis are already starting to do this, but many more will be looking at ways they can use digital to provide better customer service and boost sales.

Are you already a step ahead? Could your work take on the best in the market to achieve industry recognition? If so, you should be entering the Marketing Week Engage Awards 2013. There’s a raft of retail-relevant categories including:

Retail, Advertising, CRM/Loyalty, Content Marketing, Data-driven Marketing, Digital, Direct Marketing, Experiential and Events, In-store/Shopper Marketing, Mobile, Tablets and Apps, PR, Promotional Marketing, Social Media and Sponsorship.

Click here to submit your entry before 15 January 2013.