How apps help consumers engage more positively with retailers

Published: 29/09/2021
Author: Vidatec

Everyone is familiar with the saying, ‘creature of habit’ and that, it appears, is for good reason.

According to Next Gen Personal Finance, 45% of our personal activity is the same every day and quickly becomes habitual. This has been exacerbated by lockdowns as we have had even less opportunities to vary our behaviours.

The figure is important when it comes to being able to tap into habit-forming behaviours to enhance commercial opportunities in the retail space, in particular across digital platforms.

Being able to understand more about the motivations for human behaviour, the triggers and reasons for doing what we do, can be powerful tools for brands seeking to engage with consumers in an immersive way.

Online retail market is anticipated to be worth $7.65 trillion by 2028

The pandemic has had the effect of catapulting online retail to new heights as we have all become more accustomed to shopping online. This trend is expected to continue with the market anticipated to be worth $7.65 trillion by 2028.

At the same time, however, as the pandemic threat eases, people are becoming increasingly comfortable in returning to high streets and physical stores too, with the BRC noting a small boost in in-store sales over the summer.

With customers looking for ‘best-of-both-worlds’ solutions that can offer them maximum convenience and positive experiences, the time is now perfect to find ways to leverage the growth in online as part of a blended approach that appeals to all kinds of shoppers across multiple touchpoints.

Here we look at how retailers can employ behavioural science when it comes to developing engaging crossover between customers’ e-commerce and physical shopping experiences.

Habit Loops

A useful start is to think about how habits are formed and facilitate our daily life. For example, we all instinctively know that when we get up in the morning, one routine is brushing our teeth to feel fresh and clean as we start the day, and to ensure good dental hygiene. It becomes natural and effortless to us.

From here we can deconstruct the habit into three parts: a response (brush your teeth) to a given cue (getting up in the morning) that delivers a reward (feeling fresh and clean and having good dental hygiene).

So for a brand seeking to get its product or service into a similar habit loop, taking a look at things through a behavioural lens can really help to establish long term positive relationships with customers as they experience rewards through repeat behaviour.

The response element means identifying the behavioural change you are trying to implement. The cue refers to the trigger element, which reminds the customer to take part in that behaviour. And the reward is about creating a satisfactory result for the consumer that makes them want to repeat the behaviour again and again, forming a habit.

Shaping habits vital to winning retail battle

Saying the last 18 months have interfered with normal routines is quite an understatement. Cafes struggled because people were not in the office and going out to buy lunch or use the work canteen. Things like buying a coffee at the station for the commute were also curtailed.

For many retailers the answer was to address their digital strategy and introduce more ways for customers to interact with their brands across different platforms, fast-tracking a more omnichannel approach.

Offering customers the opportunity to move seamlessly between both digital and real world experiences in retail is now becoming increasingly commonplace, and the gateway often starts in the palm of everyone’s hand – their smartphone.

With millions of apps available and many deleted to save storage, there has to be a good reason to both download and continue to use one, with the real win coming from those apps that can become part of a new habit.

Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the storeMaking shopping easy and fun

Loading an app with lots of interactive features makes shopping both easy and fun, while creating a feel good factor that encourages repeated interaction with a brand.

For example, when shopping for home décor – another growth area with people spending much more time at home – customers want to be confident that products will fit into the space they have and match individual tastes. Augmented reality (AR) features have become very popular in this regard, letting customers closely examine furniture like rugs or curtains in 3D, ‘seeing’ the piece in their own living room and checking the size, colour and price in real time before making a purchase.

By developing the right mechanisms to tap into the customer’s mindset while they are researching new home décor products – for example, reminding them to use the AR function before they buy – the app will become an invaluable part of the process whenever buying new home products.

Another good example comes with health and fitness retail. Gym chain DW teamed up with sportswear giant, Nike, to offer app users advice on what sportswear goes best with different exercises and equipment. When at the gym, users can try on and purchase kit via interactive technology. We all know how powerful endorphins from exercise can be, and this provides a very powerful motivator and part of the reward element of this behaviour.

Giving that bit extra

Rewarding buying behaviours with savings and discounts across any type of retail provides another opportunity for an app to become a fixed part of the buying process and contributes to clever digital strategy.

‘Flash deals’ or push notifications match up with someone’s search history, then offer virtual ‘scratch off’ tickets to win savings. This encourages return business, traffic to websites and formed habits. It also translates well to consumers in the physical space, with shoppers able to benefit from online perks while they are browsing in-store.

When it comes to the revival of discount shopping villages, apps can help contribute to an enjoyable atmosphere that will become a fixed part of the visitor experience. Shoppers are referred to as guests and apps which identify their preferred choices then offer relevant discounts on their chosen brands as they shop around. This all forms an important repeated expectation from customers whenever they visit the village, and fulfilling this experience provides a reward that, again, will keep customers coming back.

Future proofing

Knowing more about the science behind human behaviour serves to enhance the effectiveness of any technology implemented into a business sector, particularly when trying to develop new habits. By planning on how you pique your target audience’s interest, what behaviour you want to change and how you can offer rewards will increase the chances of positive behavioural change.