‘Swipe-to-like’ apps spearhead retailers’ personalisation drive

Argos has just launched the first ‘swipe-to-like’ shopping web app but expect other retailers to follow suit as they look to find out ever more information about their customers and personalise online shopping.

Argos’ app, developed by digital agency Convert, for its Christmas Gift Finder service shows users a series of products that they can swipe right to say they like and left to dislike. Each like and dislike improves the app’s filtering system, meaning that the app gets smarter and hopefully picks out more things customers might like as more people use it.

Argos is the first retailer to bring the swipe-to-like experience to retail but it has already proved popular in other areas. Dating app Tinder has found infamy by offering a service that lets users swipe right or left to like or dislike a possible match.

Google Now works under a similar idea, with users able to dismiss cards if they are showing information that isn’t interesting or relevant. This all helps the app learn what people like and dislike with the aim of providing a more useful and personalised service in future.

The push for personalisation

CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore says he expects to see more of these types of apps across the media landscape. In retail, with more people searching and browsing on their phones, he believes this user experience makes “perfect sense”, allowing retailers to understand more about their users and target them with specific deals and products.

“There is a key trend towards more personalised services, whether on an app or as a way to browse and access information, with brands looking to target users with specific offers and products they like. It works well for dating so why not deploy a similar approach in other areas? This is all about user engagement with the end game of knowing more about the user, who they are, what they like,” he adds.

Personalisation is a growing area of interest for brands as customers increasingly expect brands to deliver targeted and relevant communications. However, a new report from eConsultancy and Adobe found that less than half (39%) of marketers personalise across desktop, tablets and smartphones due to technical and data privacy challenges associated with tracking people across devices.

For mobile apps that figure drops to 16%. This despite the “strong commercial case for personalisation, says the report, with those that tailor their messaging reporting a 14% uplift in sales.

Andy Budd, managing director at web design consultancy Clearleft, says the aim of this sort of app should be to help inform other parts of the business, for example by using the data gleaned to improve Argos’ online recommendation engine. However, he cautious that these can be “notoriously difficult” to build and that so far most companies aren’t doing enough in this area.

Engagement leading to conversion

Argos initially soft-launched the app and says engagement was higher than expected. It received 300,000 visits, with three-quarters of those from mobile devices, with the average visitor spending three minutes looking at gift suggestions and swiping through more than 60 of the possible 6,000 gifts.


Pescatore believes it is the simple action of flicking right or left that drives engagement with these types of apps, requiring only one simple action for a user to get a result. This minimises user friction, key on mobile when people are typically killing time waiting for a bus.

Budd says in cases like Gift Finder apps “minimal interfaces rule”, with the simplicity of the action helping boost serendipity. However, he cautions that such an app should be an extension to a brand’s digital offering, rather than a replacement, useful for when users are browsing but less helpful when they are actually searching for a particular item.

Key will be how easy the transition between being shown a product and being able to buy it is. According to the eConsultancy and Adobe report 65% of client-side respondents said conversion was the most important reason why they investing in personalisation, ahead of metrics such as customer acquisition and retention.

While Argos might tout engagement metrics, “this is fundamentally about the bottom line”, says Pescatore. “If Argos can say it boosted revenue because of this app expect others to follow suit even faster.”


Argos’s digital transformation is real but perception lags

Sarah Vizard

Argos has traditionally been seen as a more downmarket retailer, with stores and a brand identity that lacked a contemporary edge. It has been trying to change that perception over the past couple of years with huge investments in the store experience, staff training and its infrastructure with the aim of creating a high street retailer with unrivalled digital capabilities.


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