Building a Truly Mobile Experience for eCommerce Apps in the Post-Pandemic Era

For more than a decade now, smartphones have occupied a crucial place in our lives. Yet, we never knew how indispensable they’d become until the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020, altering the way we live our lives completely. From that point onwards, with all the lockdowns imposed by governments worldwide, with all the fear of losing loved ones to this disease, having a smartphone was no longer a nice-to-have, it was a must-have. It became the main channel of experience, for interaction with others, socialization, business, leisure, education, and of course shopping. We saw the dramatic impact of user behavior change in facts and figures, mobile app download and app store customer revenue figures have reached record high figures, online commerce sales have reached 26.7 million $ globally, making it almost 20% of overall retail sales globally and so on.  

Now with vaccinated people freed from quarantine, we have started to question, whether this shift in the way we live our lives would go back to how it was pre-pandemic, and the impact on mobile commerce brands  This was exactly what we have spoken about in our inspiring session at the Ecom World 2021, where we aimed to provide a robust angle in terms of what brands should consider for their marketing strategy, in order to build rich brand experiences in a truly mobile world in light of all these drastic changes.

Changing Consumer Habits?

Last year, we all went beyond imagining how virtual can replace physical. We personally experienced it. From now on, a “mobile-first” marketing strategy will not necessarily be enough by itself. Now, the focus should be on enriching the mobile experience for users through technology. 

Here, two points to take as a beacon in this bumpy road:

  1. It is important to remember that people will not unlearn the habits they acquired during such a long and painful process overnight. Therefore, the current trend of a steady increase in mCommerce sales is likely to stay.
  2. This behavior change resulted in a rapid proliferation of brands and companies going mobile by creating apps, which geared up the competition. So, the second thing that would certainly stay with us will be the need for brands to offer a truly unique mobile experience to stand out.

4 Pillars of Mobile Brand Building

1) Immersive Experience

In 2020, global eCommerce expenses increased drastically, together with the time spent on these apps. This change has pushed eCommerce brands to go beyond providing the services of online purchase and delivery at the doorstep. Considering that even window shopping takes place on mobile now, “Experience, over ANYthing,” should be at the core of everything. 

While designing the overall journey for mobile users is becoming a pressing need for every eCommerce brand, the current technology limits the experience within a fracture of a screen. Banners, carousels, cards, and pop-ups give users many options to proceed with but also cause paralysis of choice. Here, immersive experience comes into the picture. 

Immersive experience means capturing all the attention on the main value proposition without any distraction on screen. The concept suggests pulling the users into product discovery and eventually leading them to the desired purchase action. The quality of user experience will determine the possibility of a second visit, another discovery session, and a repeated purchase flow. 

One way of ensuring that users have some delightful time while using the app is positioning the smartphone screen as a window opening up to an attractive world. You might think that it is easier said than done. Well, the proliferation of story format among giant social apps made the difference for all other verticals. Aside from being familiar and intuitive, this content form takes the mCommerce experience closer to the physical one. With that, app owners can have influencers host live shopping events, produce shoppable videos periodically, and bring the “shop the look” concept into the app through product tags.

2) Smart Personalization

After utilizing every part of a phone screen to guarantee immersiveness, it is essential to think about how to personalize it smartly and by appealing to the heart. 

Users will probably encounter a sea of products, offers, messages, and visuals when they sign into an mCommerce app. At this point, bringing them together with more relevant options will directly increase the quality of time and amount of money they spent on the app. Thus, all the brands are working on personalization at some level, almost since the beginning of retail. 

Since users’ footprint is quite clear and easy to track in today’s fully mobile world, brands can utilize a vast pool of data to tailor their offers and prices. However, considering that every single competitor is also trying to do the same thing, it is more than necessary to find a way to differentiate, even marginally. While the offer can be tailored, so can the experience. 

Personalizing the experience comes with two advantages -amplified conversion rate when it is smart and increased customer loyalty when it is emotionally appealing. 

The former is directly related to the concept of hyper-personalization. Instead of flooding users with endless options, relying on the user data to curate any message on the app screen will allow consumers to make informed decisions based on their preferences. Such detailed planning will directly boost the customer lifetime value.

On the other hand, the latter is more of a user engagement matter, such as the “Only You” project by Spotify. Recently, the giant audio streaming app rolled out a sort of mid-year version of Wrapped. The feature offers its users insights about their music history in a sharable format. This certainly makes end-users get curious, puts a smile on their face, and helps them feel rather “special.” It also encourages them to share these insights with friends and family. 

Why can’t an eCommerce app mimic what Spotify does? Shopping apps share smart recommendations with their customers. Why not share intriguing information about their experience within the app as well? How many times have they searched for the keyword “dress” or “shoes” or “eyeliner”? What is their favorite brand? Are they the ultimate loyalist or a newbie? 

The consumers of the mobile world are looking for an experience loop, not just a one-time encounter. The personalized experience could be gimmicks to make them feel part of the community, seen, heard, and empowered. Hence, they become loyal customers. 

3) Two-Way Communication

Shopping has always been a social experience that would blossom with an always-on communication channel being accessible. This brings us to our third pillar: keeping a dialogue loop always open between the brand and the customers.

As covered by Harvard Business Review in 2010, the consumer’s journey with a brand should not be considered as a classic funnel anymore, where the relationship ends with the purchase. It is an always-on loop of communication, interaction, consideration, and conscious choice to be in that loop.

In the mobile era, it is a lot easier to ensure such a dialogue. So, we can take the discussion one step further: Making it fun to give feedback and customizing user experience based on these reactions.

The traditional popups or in-app messages that ask the users to rate their experience are both intrusive and old-school. Feedback might be an organic part of daily communication with users through in-app stories and various interactive functionalities available for this content form. Brands can leverage daily trivia, tasty quizzes, exciting polls, and emoji bars to ask for their users’ opinions. 

The second step is showing users that the feedback is taken into account. It would be wise not to show them a product they returned or gave a negative comment. They are there to window-shop, clear their mind, share what they like with their friends. Thus, brands need to find ways of starting a relationship with their mobile users instead of imposing messages on them or interrupting their experience.

4) Community Building

A brand’s footprint on social media is its community. However, it is impossible to talk about clear-cut boundaries between different mediums for brand communication and app verticals anymore. Social platforms are constantly building capabilities to enable product discovery. In turn, eCommerce apps should start to act as social platforms. Now is the time to bring the community on social media to the app.

Leveraging social features on eCommerce apps help brands establish a sense of togetherness and empower communication -which should be reciprocal by nature. Eventually, users will keep coming back for this virtual community. The key is to leverage brand evangelists in the app and energize the community through their clout and relevance.

Customers are already talking about brands on social media by tagging accounts or hashtagging mottos. There is an accumulation of experience floating on social media which brands cannot benefit from fully. Here is a thought: Why not carry this conversation to your app? Getting your community’s content into your app would also make it possible for the users to be inspired by one another.

One step further could be conveying the same content through in-app stories that your users are already used to consuming on social media. A dynamically populated group of stories fed by the talk on social would intrigue users to check the app more often than they would otherwise. Streamlining content creation between social and mobile app will be a bonus.

Positioning Revisited: Becoming a Love Brand in the Hearts and Minds of Your Consumers in A Truly Mobile World

Immersive experience, smart personalization, two-way communication, and community building are four pillars coming together to empower building a mobile brand. It is similar to what Jeff Bezos says about the concept of a brand – whether it be mobile or not: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.” So, in a way, “a brand becomes a brand only in the hearts and minds of consumers.” However, becoming a mobile brand brings two shifts to this approach: 

First, in the mobile ecosystem, brands lack a face-to-face encounter that is expected to create a shared emotional world and a genuine connection. Hence, it is necessary to think about how they can have a place in consumers’ minds and hearts through a phone screen. This is where our four pillars of mobile brand building should step in -to turn the tiny screen of a mobile device into a world of endless possibilities. Perhaps, it’s similar to the attempts of breaking the fourth wall in movies or theatre. Now, it’s time for mobile brands to break the glass that separates them from their audience. 

Secondly, it is difficult to imagine any occasion that “you are not in the room” if we are relying on Bezos’s definition of a brand. Mobile brands are always with their users, in their most private spaces, by being in personal mobile devices. So, it is important to be regarded as a welcomed guest rather than an invader. Push notifications, pop-ups, banners, chat boxes… They might help brands increase engagement. But they tend to interrupt the user’s experience, which overall is not very pleasant. This is what we believe in Storyly: helping mobile brands connect with people in a rewarding and non-interruptive way. 

The pandemic has certainly changed our lives forever. Same goes for how brands navigate these changes. We, as Storyly, strongly believe these four pillars can nurture your brand building strategy in this new era where mobile experiences are the core of everything!

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