According to a Mobile Commerce Daily article, the advantage of a mobile app over a mobile website is customer engagement, and primarily loyalty programs. Many retailers are now using a mobile application as another selling channel besides an actual store or website, but only a few retailers use their app to retain customer loyalty. Loyalty programs are still overlooked as a key to customer retention. Starbucks is one of the retail stores who built a mobile application and integrated its loyalty program into the app. My Starbucks Rewards membership is a way to differentiate Starbucks from other competitors and build customer loyalty through the mobile channel. Customers can use the Starbucks mobile app to pay, earn rewards, receive special offers, buy gifts, and look for store location. Once customers sign up for Starbucks reward program, they earn a star for every purchase and get a free drink or food for every 12 stars. On a weekly basis, they get special offers through the app without checking the offers via website. Moreover, the Starbucks app has an in-store mode that offers indoor geo-location and self-service checkout. The Starbucks app now has more than 10 million active users and is adding about 100,000 downloads per week. My Starbucks Rewards membership, has increased from 4.5 million active members at the end of October 2012 to approximately 9 million members by the end of fiscal 2013.
Other vendors are catching on. This year, Best Buy revamped its loyalty program in September with a more comprehensive in-store mobile offering as the company increasingly looks to beat showrooming. Jamba Juice, The smoothie chain, unveiled a new loyalty program called My Fruitful Rewards in July that puts mobile at the core. Rita’s Italian Ice dipped its toes in mobile in March with a campaign for its annual Free Ice day that included QR codes to drive downloads of its new loyalty-based app.
If you are using the mobile channel, you need to on making retail apps engaging and build customer loyalty through loyalty programs, coupons, and places where customers can engage with you. Of course, mobile apps are not for every business and sometimes a mobile website, without direct customer engagement will suffice. In either case, it is still important to be leveraging the mobile channel because that’s where you customers are.