Of all the numerous ways in which our lives have been altered by the current global pandemic, one of the most significant must surely be the reliance on digital technology to facilitate all aspects of our existence, whether it's socialising, working or shopping.
With this has come a huge acceleration in our shift towards being digitally-savvy consumers, with a recent report from KPMG showing that 25% of customers in the UK have downloaded a new app as a way of engaging with a brand or business during lockdown, and 42% of consumers predicting that they will shop online more often than before the Covid-19 outbreak.
These findings have significant implications for the marketing industry, as we help clients adapt to changing customer behaviour and demands for greater digital engagement platforms. In particular, agencies are having to look at their app offering, consider how they can empower clients to take advantage of the growing opportunities for customer engagement in this space and how they can stand out in the increasingly competitive app marketplace.
We spoke to several Mission agencies about how they are working with clients to utilise apps to drive greater customer engagement, and critically, how they can drive app usage through creative and thoughtful marketing content.
Bradley Stacey, technical team lead at Bray Leino
Covid-19 has pushed businesses of all sizes to go through very rapid phases of digital transformation. Countless businesses have taken either portions of, or their entire business, online at a previously unimaginable pace. This has been in every possible form, from home delivery to click and collect, pre-booking places at attractions, shifting to direct to consumer, establishing digital subscriptions and taking live events online.
The transformation has been facilitated in part by online platforms like Stripe which offer easy to use and easy to integrate services for things like payment, account management, and order processing. We’re currently helping a client establish an ambitious direct to consumer subscription service on the Stripe platform which recognises changing consumer shopping behaviour – offering their customers both convenience and reassurance.
We’ve also been working with a client in the grocery home delivery space for some time. One thing the app does brilliantly is being flexible for their customers. Customers are free to mix one-off and subscription orders and make changes to their orders right up to the day of delivery. This is all supported by great UX and friendly and helpful delivery service. While they’ve seen demand for their service grow, they have also experienced greater competition from the major supermarkets and new app-based start-ups.
Although this new consumer behaviour has been driven by the circumstances of the Covid-19 lockdown, we see it being a permanent change for some and a big opportunity on that basis. Amazon sees this opportunity as well, recently announcing a new expansion of their fast-growing grocery delivery arm.
David Pearson, chief exec at Mongoose Promotions
We are currently busy developing apps for Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas to better connect their products to employee and consumer groups. Both cinema companies already employ direct to consumer applications accessing movie listings and tickets, though their sales through the B2B channel have traditionally focussed on a “desktop first” approach reflecting the fact that these ticket sales are through employee communities – and hence made via the space in which they are employed – and their desktop.
New working practices which have necessitated a departure from the office have blurred the lines between what is an “employee” and a “consumer” customer of the cinema industry, the reality, of course, being that most of us are both. So why should the way that a cinema company sells their products differ between the two groups who are, after all, purchasing the same products?
The reality is that there is little reason for the customer journey to be different. There is still a need to separate (pricing differs between the two groups) but the process itself should be the same. Our new applications allow us to shorten the purchase journey for business customers (business consumers) and reflect the erosion of the separation between a business customer and a consumer.
Sam Bettis, social media director at Krow
While app usage and downloads grow year on year, the app store becomes even busier. There are 2.2m apps (and growing) to download on the Apple app store, and while usage increases – so does competition for attention and phone space.
This is why we can’t rely purely on the ‘download now’ message to let us into such personal spaces, we need to use content to create accessible entry points into app downloads. A strong content strategy should work across a spectrum of mindsets – to ensure that every audience can find their right pathway into the app, while also encouraging conversation around what the app offers (thus driving recommendations).
For our clients, content is the conversation building understanding around the help an app could offer – opening different doors for different audiences. When working with the digital therapy app, My Online Therapy, content allowed us to construct different entry points into the online therapy conversation by understanding the need states of the user. For those less open to online therapy we connect with more relatable moments, whereas for audiences more likely to consider the help we provide longer form educational content, seeing our content as the thing that builds relationships. Making the content sharable through its human language can also unlock person to person conversation around online therapy and recommendation – allowing us to be helpful and supportive.
Digital experiences will continue to enable us create new entry points – such as Snapchat Minis or Pinterest pin extension units creating a ‘try before buy’ experience, or even simple content tactics to start conversations before users are actually downloading. Rather than focussing purely on conversion numbers – we want to focus on bringing the right audience on the right journey.
Mark Leigh, director at ThinkBDW Ltd
We have recently developed an app which is a tablet version of our successful touchscreen/touch table system, ‘ThinkHub’ which is installed in marketing suites. The impetus to develop this was the need to present a new home development to prospective buyers who didn’t have access to closed marketing suites during lockdown - and therefore couldn’t use the touchscreen system.
Developing the downloadable app gave users the touchscreen experience at home, but in a wider sense, it acted as a catalyst for us to consider how best we can give customers more information digitally. This has led to the current development of an enhanced web-based system which will eventually be able to deliver real-time rendered CGIs of a chosen house or apartment – with different kitchen or bathroom options, for example.
The aim in providing more easily accessible and comprehensive information like this is that when customers do visit the marketing suite, they are almost pre-disposed towards the home they want – and the visit is just for the reassurance gained from looking at an actual show home - and to sign on the dotted line.
However our lives may prove to have been changed, either temporarily or permanently, by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that digital technology will play a key role in shaping our new reality. It’s up to us in the marketing industry to ensure that our clients are fully prepared and equipped to maximise the opportunities presented by these changes and to embrace the potential of digital technology to drive business growth and customer loyalty.