Brands are increasingly straddling the online and offline worlds. But too often there is a disconnect between a brand’s physical presence and its digital one. This can create a missed opportunity. Brands may fail to offer a consistent experience, may fail to meet the user at the right point in the sales funnel, or may create an unnecessarily complex or redundant experience. Users expect seamless, intuitive brand experiences across all touch points, and failure to deliver creates friction. Mobile apps are one way that brands can help bridge the physical and digital divide.
Where Brand Disconnects Occur
Today’s consumers constantly move between the physical and the digital. They research purchases they plan to make in person online, and use apps to mediate physical experiences such as travel, appointments and grocery shopping. Seldom is a brand experience entirely online or entirely off-line.
As a result, today’s brands need to consider how customer journeys move between the digital and the physical and ensure that the entire experience is as consistent and seamless as possible.
Some sources of disconnect include:
- Having to input information such as personal data or item preferences multiple times
- Lack of coherent support when shifting from one format to another
- Lack of information needed to complete a task
- An inconsistent brand identity or user interface between digital and physical
Rather than seeing their digital and physical experiences as separate and discrete, brands need to see both as contributing to the overall brand experience. They need to anticipate where gaps, overlaps or less-than-ideal interactions will arise, and develop intuitive, integrated solutions that overcome these disconnects.
The outcome will be a low-friction, user-friendly brand experience.
How Mobile Apps Can Bridge the Experience Gap
The brands that are thriving in today’s marketplace are those who are seeking to overcome the digital-physical divide through considered, omnichannel approaches. Core to these are mobile apps. Here are just some of the ways that mobile apps can help create a seamless brand experience.
Social media is a simple way to bring the physical world into the digital. Store, product or team photos help bridge the divide and set brand expectations. Branded hashtags and targeted “selfie” set-ups are another way to meld the two – while empowering consumers to co-create a brand. It’s a simple and low-budget approach that brings physical brand assets into the digital, creating a consistent brand identity.
VR and AR.
Virtual and augmented reality provide opportunities for customers to enjoy an enhanced experience in-store, or to take the store experience home with them. Apps from homewares brands such as Dulux, Lowes, Anthropologie and Ikea allow consumers to try a virtual product test-run before making a purchase, while those from apparel companies such as Converse and Adidas let users virtually try on sneakers. Apps like these tie together the customer experience from pre- to post-purchase.
Loyalty apps do more than offer discounts to regulars. They remember past purchases and anticipate future spending behavior – simplifying the purchasing process. Apps such as the Starbucks app do this and more to ensure a consistent, timely experience – as well as excellent customer engagement. The Hilton loyalty app similarly extends the physical experience with functionality that allows users to check in, know when their room has been cleaned, and even enter the room without a physical key. It’s an approach that rewards loyal users with an upgraded overall experience.
Many consumers avoid seeking help from sales associates when in-store. Apps from companies such as Home Depot seek to overcome this potentially high-friction issue by letting customers see if a product is in stock, as well as where in the store to find it. They can also scan a barcode to learn more about a particular product. Here technology is used to help reduce customer discomfort while ensuring that customers receive the guidance they need in store.
Click-and-collect is an ingenious way of streamlining the digital-physical divide as it applies to purchasing. Brands such as Nike, most notably in its pilot Nike By Melrose store, allow customers to place an order via their mobile app, then pick it up from a designated parking zone, or in-store if desired. Amazon is another brand using click-and-collect, with customers able to pick up a purchase from Whole Foods stores, an approach that reduces the risk of porch theft.
Geofencing allows brands to send targeted marketing messages to consumers who pass through a specific geographic area. Apps from brands including Sephora, JetBlue and Apple Maps deliver highly relevant push notifications: in these instances, gift card reminders, boarding information and traffic updates respectively. Just so long as the notifications are useful, geofencing can help use a digital experience to promote brand loyalty in the physical world.
Improved Brand Experiences Through Mobile Apps
Mobile apps represent a powerful way to bridge the digital and physical experiences of your brand. They help create a consistent brand identity, extend your brand into either space, and reduce friction at any part of the sales funnel.
Whether your brand is in retail, hospitality, travel or professional services, mobile apps help deliver a simple and seamless brand experience that streamlines the customer experience.