Effective apps not only boost sales, they provide an easy way to obtain customer feedback.

Holiday sales on mobile increased by 59% last year and amounted to $13 billion. This holiday season is sure to be yet another record-breaker for mobile. Why? Because consumers are comfortable making purchases in apps.

A recent consumer study by Apptentive found that 88% of consumers use retail mobile apps, and over half (54%) of those consumers made purchases in retail apps in the last month. If the upward trend of mobile holiday sales continues, the holiday season is a huge opportunity for retailers to capture a portion of the potential $20 billion in expected revenue that’s on the table from mobile shoppers.

So how can retailers capture a bigger piece of the pie? In our experience working with dozens of leading retailers, we’ve seen that the brands that focus on creating a great customer experience in their mobile app are better positioned to capture a bigger portion of the billions up for grabs.

In this article, I’ll share how mobile customer experience impacts holiday sales (and beyond), and provide five tips to gear up your mobile app in time for the biggest shopping season of the year.

1. Connect offline and online experiences.


The importance of a positive mobile customer experience extends beyond purchases in the app. Our survey found 55% of people who use retail mobile apps have used them to browse, then purchase in-store at least once in the last month. (We call this “app-rooming”). Not only does the mobile app experience need to be a stand-alone experience, it should also connect seamlessly with consumers’ physical experiences.

There are several different approaches you can take to connect the two worlds. Walgreens has done this well by enabling their customers to scan their prescriptions via their mobile app to request a refill. Customers can then pick up their prescription in-store once it’s ready. Target focuses on making in-store shopping trips easier by noting aisle locations and allowing customers to create shopping lists, all in the app. Target customers can also scan product bar codes in the store to pull up price, and other detailed information about the product to help them make decisions. Domino’s has taken another route completely; they recently launched a mobile app that allows customers to order pizza simply by opening the app, without ever having to click a button.

Consumers covet integrated customer experiences because it makes their lives easier, and more convenient. Regardless of what approach you take to integrating your app with your store, the goal should be to enrich your customer experience.

2. Measure and track customer sentiment.


Do you know how your customers feel about your brand? All companies want their customers to love them, but how do you know if you’ve earned that accolade without measuring customer love? It’s difficult to understand how your customers receive your brand, and how much they enjoy your customer experience without consistently tracking customer sentiment. Supplemental to customer feedback, measuring customer sentiment will help teams across your organization learn and make business decisions. Your product, quality assurance, engineering, market research, and marketing teams all stand to gain insights from customer sentiment tracking.

Mobile customers are a great place to start measuring love, because they’re so willing to interact and give feedback. The most effective way to grow the number of customers who love your brand is to understand where you currently stand, and to measure customer love over time. This enables you to see how decisions impact sentiment, and pinpoint what moves you forward (and backward).

Customer sentiment tracking is even more powerful when you’re able to talk to new segments of your customers. Engaging customers you’ve never heard from is powerful, because it allows you to gain new insights. It’s the first step in moving customers towards becoming fanatically loyal customers.

3. Sync mobile apps with loyalty programs.


Allowing customers to earn reward or loyalty points by using your mobile app (something they’re already doing) not only improves their customer experience, it increases loyalty. Starbucks is a great example of a company that has successfully tied their mobile app to customer loyalty. Their customers have to use their app in order to earn reward points, which may be a driving force behind the high volume of sales linked to mobile (24% of all Starbucks’ transactions are on mobile).

By rewarding customers for using your mobile app, you add extra incentive for them to make purchases in the app, and decrease the likelihood they’ll shop with a competitor.

4. Ask for customer feedback.

Incorporating customer feedback into your mobile strategy is smart for a couple of reasons: It allows you to learn about customer behavior in explicit ways and to quickly iterate and test new products and features.


Asking customers for feedback increases your ability to problem solve without guessing. Are customers abandoning their shopping cart, but you don’t know why? Don’t waste time trying to deduce all of the different possibilities as to why this is an issue. Ask customers in the app as soon as they abandon their cart.

This will save you time, and enable you to implement a solution quickly—reducing the amount of revenue lost. Mobile customers want to give feedback. In a survey we conducted with SurveyMonkey, we found 98% of consumers are likely to leave feedback when asked directly in-app. In the same survey, 64% of consumers said they expect companies to ask. Take advantage of this by asking for customer feedback in your app more often, and use it to solve problems quickly to increase customer satisfaction.

Asking for mobile customers’ feedback also empowers you to test and iterate on new products and features quickly. A global retailer we work with used customer feedback to substitute focus groups when they were developing a new app feature. This strategy allowed them to hear from over 600 customers within a few days of launching an in-app survey, which allowed them to quickly improve the product, and ultimately launch the new feature globally ahead of schedule.

This is the power of mobile customer feedback.


5. Make mobile purchasing easy.

The ability to easily pay for purchases in a mobile app is in high demand. If the payment process is cumbersome, customers are more likely to abandon their shopping cart. Retailers that make buying easy, such as Amazon, reap the (monetary) rewards. Amazon has created an easy checkout process that only requires customers to hit one button to complete their purchase.

Starbucks best proves the demand for in-app payment capabilities. Starbucks customers load money onto the equivalent of a digital gift card in the Starbucks app, and scan their phone at the counter to pay. This payment method has been outrageously successful; Starbucks has more customer money in their mobile app than many banks have in deposits. That is, $1.2 billion— double what they had in 2014! 41% of their U.S. and Canadian customers now pay for their coffees via the Starbucks app.

Consumers are not only using retail mobile apps to enhance their in-store shopping experience, they’re using them to make purchases. The holiday shopping season is right around the corner, and our study found 65% of customers who use retail mobile apps plan on using them for their holiday shopping needs.


The benefits of investing in a seamless mobile customer experience extend beyond the holidays; the retailers who do benefit the entire fiscal year. One of our retail customers found that their app customers spend 1.5x as much as the rest of their customers. In addition to increasing revenue, positive mobile customer experiences increase customer loyalty, lifetime value, and satisfaction.

Not only are consumers grateful for retailers that create mobile apps designed to make their holiday shopping less stressful, executive teams are able to glean deep insights about their customers through mobile apps. Mobile investment is becoming broadly strategic, powering the Voice of the Customer programs, and leading the way on customer experience.

Retail apps that have tapped into customer feedback to shape their product, have a well connected online and offline experience, track customer sentiment, have an easy checkout process, and loyalty incentives tied to their apps see more success than their competitors who lack these mobile customer experience innovations.

Retailers that don’t invest in their mobile customer experience are not only losing potential revenue, they’re damaging their brand, inhibiting customer loyalty, and missing the chance to understand customer behavior on a large scale.


Apptentive provides mobile customer engagement software designed to enable brands to build relationships with their customers.