LONDON — In the age of the coronavirus, mobile engagement is becoming the new norm, and the app commerce company Poq predicts that in-app purchases will account for at least 25 percent of e-commerce traffic in the U.K. and U.S. by the end of 2020. As a result, retailers are looking to double down on customer experience, and offer apps that are as alluring, engaging — and profitable — as possible.
“Fast fashion, with a younger demographic, is probably higher than 25 percent and I think this change will increase even more because it’s unlikely consumer behavior will go back to pre-outbreak norms,” said Michael Langguth, cofounder and chief operating officer at Poq, adding that a shift will also be felt in older demographics, which prior to COVID-19, had not used online shopping as frequently as younger ones.
Over the last few weeks, global app downloads have risen, especially in France and Germany, which have seen a steep increase in daily downloads.
According to Langguth, retailers have been shifting investment from their web sites to mobile apps. He attributes this to the high cost of customer acquisition through online channels.
“You retain a small number of customers you pay to acquire and online marketing is very expensive, so retailers are doubling down on their most loyal customers now to give them the best possible experience, which happens to be a native mobile app,” he said.
Langguth said he and his team at Poq have been working with Apple to find ways of promoting these native, commerce-focused apps. Poq has helped retailers such as Missguided, FeelUnique and the health food chain Holland & Barrett create their mobile apps.
He said the revenue run rate of the Missguided shopping app was 30 million pounds after just four months of launching, and now makes up 20 percent of the retailer’s online revenue.
Poq is also known for game-ifying the app experience and for creating a Tinder-like navigation where app customers swipe left on products they don’t like and right on products they do like. Poq has built this into apps for retailers including Cotton On, Oasis and Missguided.
“It gives [the retailers] insight about products and also makes the consumers engage with content a lot more. We saw over the holiday periods last year a huge increase. People were swiping 55 products per day, on average. It gives a different, snackable type of interacting with brand content rather than scrolling through a list,” Langguth said.
Another feature Poq has implemented is app stories, essentially the same as Instagram stories, where retailers can also post bite-sized video content.
Recently, Holland & Barrett has relaunched its app with app stories and is using this feature to speak to its customers about immunity. Although Holland & Barrett’s stores remain open in the U.K., they’ve been actively promoting the app and linking it to customers’ loyalty cards, too.
While immunity and wellness have become a key focus for retailers against the backdrop of COVID-19, Langguth said he has recently seen a record number of fashion app downloads inspired by lifestyle and fashion imagery.
One of Poq’s clients, the U.K. clothing and homeware retailer Studio, has one of the fastest-growing apps. “What’s interesting is that Studio’s customer base is actually over the age of 50. It’s a great example of a retailer that targets the older demographic very successfully with a mobile first approach,” he added.
Another element that has helped retailers increase engagement with customers is the push notification. For Langguth, they are a crucial tool.
“Right now, the number of e-mails have increased tenfold, the more e-mails you get, the fewer you will read. Push notifications are definitely a good channel especially when people are more at home, and they might be using a second screen. Seeing a pop-up to their phone about something that’s interesting, relevant and personal is how [these retailers] are going to engage,” he said.