How quickly smart phone technology became the mainstream norm! There’s no shortage of statistics supporting their ever-growing dominance… By 2013, more people will be browsing the internet on smart phones than on laptops or PCs. There are 5 billion mobiles on the planet, used by 80% of the worlds population. Of this, 1.08 billion are smart phones.*
Smart phones have changed the way we interact: 68% of all social activity is now done on a mobile device, say IBM. In an age where we are more trusting of friend’s opinions than of the media, we can gain feedback and share opinions within seconds. We are only ever a click away from vast pools of rich media – 62% of 25-34 year olds have smart phones, which is the highest penetration of any age group.* M-commerce becomes of utmost importance if you are trying to sell to customers within that demographic. With Forrester’s forecast that in the next five years, m-commerce sales are set to quintuple, every brand or retailer should be on the case, with platform specific sites and engaging applications which encourage spend and link the online and offline experience.
Digital think tank L2 compiled a report ranking the mobile competence of 100 iconic brands. The scoring system looked at four areas: their mobile sites, mobile apps, mobile marketing and innovations. The prestige brands were then given a mark of genius, gifted, average, challenged or feeble, with the top ranked being Sephora, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Net-a-Porter and Bloomingdales. Interestingly, despite the global significance of all brands reviewed, only 4% were ‘genius’ and 10% ‘gifted’ with the overwhelming majority being ‘feeble’ (44%) or ‘challenged’ (23%). This shows a worrying level of underinvestment in mobile platforms.
We investigated six brands whose high online fanbase stats suggest that their audience is tech-savvy and smart phone adept. Do their mobile apps match up to their consumer’s digital expectations?
Macy’s extraordinary 20.51% increase in online fanbase in the last three months coincides with the retailer’s March announcement that they were pooling resources into appealing to the Gen Y shopper. The retailer has stayed true to its word and the app is an engaging and interactive experience with exclusive discounting, QR scanning to reveal video content, shoppable product and a barcode scanner to add products into gift registries. For this, Macy’s deserve their 6 million online followers.
Still in its infancy, Mr Porter has tapped into the surging growth in the men’s luxury market. In the past quarter, their fanbase has grown by 13.64% and their two apps are brilliantly executed. The Mr Porter Style Help (which has 4.5 stars in the Apple App Store) describes itself as ‘expert on-the-go style advice’. Pulling selected content from the main site and combining it with a ‘Stylepedia’ A-Z of men’s style vids and selected 3o items the retailer believes all men should have. Presented in the same sleek aesthetic as the site, the app feels neither gimmicky nor dull. The more recently added ‘Suit Yourself’ app launched in collaboration with American TV series, Suits. It only has a rating of 2.5 stars and helps shoppers build looks inspired by the show.
Having grown their fanbase by 8.88% to well over 2 million in the last quarter, there is no doubt that ASOS’s customer is Gen Y-heavy. Their app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, gets 3.5 stars in the App Store and syncs online accounts so that items in a shopping basket from an online browse can be purchased on the go. The app also allows customers to browse products offline, ensuring constant access to encourage shoppers. The main app is straightforward and functional, but it’s the ASOS Scan To Shop app which really shows off their digital nous. Winning a ranking of 4.5 stars, the app cleverly merges print and online media as the user accesses additional content from their ASOS Magazine with the help of augmented reality. Holding the phone over a page, the app will detect the featured garments, making them instantly shoppable.
Ranking highly in the L2 Mobile Competence report, Nordstrom’s impressive 2,327,578 online fanbase grew by 7.2% in the last quarter. Their comprehensive app offers personalised product recommendations, barcode scanning to check if a product is available at Nordstrom and shows instore events to blend online and offline. Customers can also compile Wish Lists and find the Wish Lists of their friends: playing into Gen Y’s desire to have their tastes validated by their peers.
Ralph Lauren’s quarterly fanbase increase of 10.8% brings them to 5.3 million followers. An excellent example of a high end brand tackling app territory, they entertain the mobile-savviest well with their iPhone and iPad app which gets 4 stars in the App Store. The application shows their latest collection alongside trend reports, video content and a magazine, all carried out in the brand’s signature styling. Other luxury brands should look to Ralph Lauren’s lead.
H&M’s gargantuan online fanbase is nearing 13 million, having grown by 10.06% in the last three months. Given the scale of social interest in the brand, their app is a disappointment. Scoring only 1.5 stars in the App Store, the app offers little in the way of additional content. Although push notifications alert customers of sales, and H&M have cleverly employed the phone’s motion detectors (shake the phone to get discounts), the crucial flaw is that the app is not shoppable. User reviews are particularly damning.
Given their digital prowess, it seems strange that Burberry don’t have an app. Their Art of the Trench would lend itself to on-the-go format. Other notable absences include Louis Vuitton and Prada.
While there is great disparity between the best applications and worst, there is room for improvement across the board. Brands and retailers considering launching an app have many tools at their disposal. Whilst the crucial function of the app should be to purchase products, there are other considerations too. Why not link to Foursquare, incorporate augmented reality or launch an app-only product or range to create added interest? And mobile sites mustn’t be forgotten either: make them platform and iOS specific and consider language options to broaden reach – the countries with fastest growth in smart phone ownership are Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, Sweden and Spain.
Many fashion tech start-ups are launching incredibly innovative apps such as Stylebook, which allows you to categorise and organise your wardrobe, or Cloth which shows outfits in your wardrobe based on the weather. Brands and retailers should apply some of this creativity (and perhaps team up with some of their developers!) in order to offer something different to the online shopping experience and encourage spend.
* via Go-Globe.com