With apps, brands are creating mobile storefronts for millennials

First, they transformed the way we ate. Then they transformed the way we traveled. Now mobile apps are changing the way we shop. Last year, mobile transactions in the US topped $8.71 million. With that figure poised to grow by 210 percent in 2016 brands are rethinking the entire shopping experience and they’re putting cash behind the effort.

The key lies beyond speed or convenience. For brands, apps are more than just purchase portals; they represent a new kind of storefront.

Brands are doubling down on efforts to get users through the figurative door of these new mobile storefronts. Data-driven performance campaigns designed to get the apps on consumers’ phones account for 25 percent of mobile ad spend in 2015. Retailers are leaning heavily on new formats, especially native and mobile video, to generate the volume of installs they need.

The roles these brands now play in consumers’ lives have more in common with personal shoppers and high-end department store concierges than they do with the impersonal, sometimes painful “big box” experience offered by many national retailers. Here’s how these apps are building on expert recommendations, instant gratification and social interaction.

Don’t care how, I want it now!

When shoppers opt to skip the better prices and infinite selection of the web and head to the mall instead, it’s usually because they need the item at that moment. Postmates, the delivery app that made its name by putting food in customers’ hands fast, is changing all that by plugging its hot-footed delivery system into a growing network of retailers.

But it’s not just about getting products into customers’ hands ASAP. Postmates and a number of other app-based retailers are taking advantage of one-click purchasing to ensure that the buying process is as frictionless as possible.

Only my apps know the real me

Brands that up their app game get rewarded with the real currency of the digital realm: data. Apps let brands learn more about customers with every click and purchase.

These brands aren’t reliant on the memory of an astute sales clerk. Their knowledge is stored in databases that can then loop that data back around to churn out custom experiences for appreciative customers, by making smart, personalized recommendations. Who needs their favorite department store sales associate when an app-based retailer like Spring already gets your personal style? Who needs the cosmetics counter when Sephora’s Beauty Insider knows your favorite brands and links your in-store purchases with your online shopping cart?  

Make shopping social again

Half the fun of shopping is showing off what you bought after leaving the store. JackThreads, the Thrillist-owned menswear brand, weaves the social side of shopping into its app so consumers don’t even have to wait until they get home. Fans of the brand can share pics of their latest purchases directly to social networks and connect with other users with a similar style sensibility (in addition to showing the rest of their network that they’re ahead of the curve).

Mobile apps are helping brands find their way into consumers lives even if those consumers aren’t finding their way into stores. By taking the best of the storefront experience, playing on clear generational behaviors, and packing it into customers’ pockets in the form of apps. Brands that used to put their best face forward on the showroom floor must now bring that same attention to detail to the app store.



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