Last week I said that we are going to redirect the newsletter to our blog. A lot of you didn't like it. I understand. The newsletter will be fully readable from your inbox. We will have a copy of this newsletter put out on our blog.
We had a major launch last week. Nearly a million companies and fully revamped data across the board. It was a good feeling but it also made us all tired. So we gave a day-off to the team on Friday. Some of us worked though, promising to ourselves that we'd take the labor day off. I won't and I know it.
I spend 3 hours every Saturday now on Zoom calls with fellow founders who are helping each other scale our businesses. It is intense. It will go on every week until the beginning of December. It is great. But this week, I don't have any energy to squeeze my brain further.
Instead of sharing what I think, this week I am going to share what someone did incredibly well with their eCommerce business.
Meet Matt Hudson, who is our regular reader and Senior Mobile Delivery Manager at Belk.com.
Belk is over 100 years old and is from the South-east. You would hear about them a lot in the press. But if you are an operator who is on the fence about embracing digital, Belk is a story to pitch to your bosses. I am not mentioning specific numbers but not often do you see a business double revenue from one channel YoY and then 5x it again while going through a pandemic situation.
Matt and his team proved that the native mobile app experience for retailers is an under-explored tactical advantage that can pay very handsomely - as wicked and spiky a revenue growth graph as Matt's hairstyle that I envy.
When D2C brands or online retailers talk about D2C channels, we often see them talking about stores or websites. If the category is not replenishment-driven mobile is not even an after-thought. Belk.com sells accessories. It does not have a subscription element to it. So why then mobile is important and why is it a competitive advantage?
Let's talk about competitive advantage. Mobile is not seen as a channel. It is seen as a part of the 'digital strategy' - especially when the category you play in is not going to use native mobile features like AR, Virtual Try-on, etc. So then mobile becomes a box to check off in the digital transformation strategy. A good 'Progressive web app' or an app with mobile check out would just do.
The mobile element of the D2C strategy becomes rounded off to a 'not bad' experience. That is money on the table, explains Matt.
What does a 'not bad' experience actually look like?
No access to consumer data to personalize the experience for returning users (there is a cache but it is time-limited). New phone, who dis?
Push notifications won't work in iOS
Experiences like shipping, checkout, social sharing could all get into multiple clunky steps that lead to card abandonment
A user has to login which is a huge friction
There is a 'zeroth moment of truth' at which point the shopper decides that s/he has had enough and abandons the cart. A progressive web app or simply a mobile-optimized website opens you for several such zero moments after which the bitter moment of abandonment gets served.
But what about 'App Fatigue'?
Matt says that while there is 'app fatigue' and not everyone is looking for apps, if you have a marketing budget and have a loyal, returning customer base give them the app experience. The relationship is not transactional and getting your loyal users to download the app is a great way to continue the relationship in a non-transactional way.
App Clips are on the way
With iOS 14, app clips are coming to iPhone users. What this means is you don't have to download the app from the store but click on the link or point to a QR code at the store and directly reach that part of the app from where you can access the product page or check out. Matt believes this to be a game-changing feature and would remove the blocker for app installs.
What if your users are old?
Matt tells me that the 'age association' is another myth. People in their 40s that have somehow been conned into the virtues of multi-tasking greatly appreciate app experiences - especially when they have to feed their kids (which they postponed to having in 40s because 40s are the new 30s, right?) with one hand and complete the checkout with the other hand (specifically, one thumb).
Also, app fatigue is an alien concept for teens and young adults. They were born into the mobile-first world. They don't know a better way to access the internet. They download apps without wondering if there is a web alternative. Present them with an app and they will download. I agree. I just gave my laptop to my kid for her to start learning design. She watches "Grand Designs' on Netflix and wants to build homes like they show in that series. Planner5D, the "app" is accessible on the browser. My brain thinks of web access to be the default. But she wouldn't have it. Even on a laptop, she wants it to be an app she can click instead of a URL she has to type!
An app removes frustrations, especially post-COVID
An app just works. You need to type less and remember less. Conversion actually drops between the desktop web and mobile web but shoots beyond mobile web benchmarks in the native mobile apps. Besides, America is going through a 'per capita retail space' shrinkage. Stores are going to be smaller. Apps become an important way to showcase an SKU that is not physically at the store and contextually push notifications to the 'geo-fenced' phone at the moment of purchase consideration.
Going 'direct to consumer' is all about giving them the black car experience. PWA or mobile web is like UberPool. There is no end to the surprises and awkward side-eyes you get from your co-passengers. Don't do it!
PipeCandy is a market intelligence platform that tracks the global eCommerce & 'direct to consumer' landscape.
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