Deliver exceptional customer experiences through super apps

Why smartphones will become the ultimate post-pandemic shopping companion.
25 August 2020
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Malcolm-Pinkerton
Malcolm
Pinkerton

Vice President, Ecommerce and Digital Insights, Consulting Division

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Many retailers have rapidly scaled omnichannel capabilities to meet demand during the pandemic, further blurring the distinction in customers’ minds between in-store and online. But even before COVID-19, analysis from our CX+ 2020 Retail report shows us that globally the top three drivers of consumer preference for grocery retailer revolve around omnichannel experience. The top three drivers are the ‘experience in their online shop,’ ‘ease of combining online and offline shopping’ and ‘innovative digital services’ (e.g. mobile app). But as omnichannel increasingly becomes a must-have capability, rather than flood the store with technology, retailers must seek to build solutions around the one constant throughout the shopper journey - the smartphone. Delivering exceptional omnichannel experiences now and in the future will depend on developing super apps.

Customer shopping habits have changed as a result of the pandemic, alongside increased expectations for channel flexibility. Today, it is a retailer imperative to create smartphone solutions that facilitate anytime, anywhere shopping and seamlessly harness the best of the online and offline worlds. But this situation has caused a proliferation of mobile apps, as digital-first and physical retailers alike vie to remain close to their customers. However, apps are evolving as retailers strive for simplification through holistic ecosystems that retain spend, drive engagement and foster loyalty. This is seeing the emergence of the next generation of app – the super app. Think WeChat, or if you want a retailer example, the Starbucks app which is a masterclass in consolidating shopper-facing apps under a single umbrella. Many retailers are endeavouring to emulate this, with Carrefour’s recent omnichannel strategy aiming to gather a wealth of services under the carrefour.fr app.

The opportunity to capture new loyalty is now

Broadening the portfolio of services accessible from an app lessens the chances of customers looking elsewhere. This is increasingly important now with shifting loyalties resulting from pandemic disruption. The Kantar COVID-19 Barometer recently revealed that 45% of people said they would continue to buy from online stores first visited during the pandemic and 38% said they would continue to buy new products online. Holistic service offerings like Amazon Prime have been proven to drive spend among adopters and help operators discourage shopper promiscuity. Ensuring that the customer inhabits the branded digital environment means data capture is simpler, more granular and actionable. Retailers who link their app to a customer’s social media profile, for example, will understand that customer to the level where offers can be finely tailored and personalised.

This requires retailers to efficiently partner and collaborate with solution providers and operationalise to exert control of ecosystems to effectively exploit everywhere being a sales and marketing opportunity. Looking at how this is achieved in China, and taking what has been learned from utilising WeChat, will position retailers for future growth. French grocery retailer Auchan’s goal of enabling ‘phygital’ retail will doubtless be aided by its collaboration with Alibaba in China, a market in which Walmart is also assiduously taking notes.

As people re-engage with life, customers will expect seamless convenience on their path-to-purchase, whether in a store or online. CX+ 2020 Retail discovered that globally just 15% of grocery customers were delighted with their most recent interaction. Delivering positive experiences will be an increasingly important differentiator. Super apps will help to achieve this, enabling customers to accomplish all aspects of a transaction, from discovery to purchase to fulfilment without the need to exit the app, thus minimising friction. Exceptional delivery indeed, and the reason retailers are building their own super apps. Forward-thinking retailers should consider that merchandising in these new environments will involve numerous facets, from social engagement with customers to delivering innovative and original UXP content. Alibaba in China is exploring how to bring virtual reality to the e-shopping experience, indicating how radically game changing these platforms will be for merchandising of tomorrow.

The evolution of super apps represents the next step on the transition to channel-less, friction-free shopping, something that will quickly gain ground in many key markets, creating a breadth of tech-facing retail enablers that might look more like social platforms than traditional retailers of old. With smartphones now the ultimate shopping companion, driving exponential growth in the growing number of intent-rich moments where decisions are made and preferences shaped, is crucial. The challenge for retailers is in controlling, or at the very least influencing, these micro-moments as they manifest amid vast retail ecosystems. Super apps might just hold the key to achieving this and delivering exceptional experiences.

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