2016 Mobile 500, or 61%, offer apps, up from 269 a year earlier. Retailers like David’s Bridal and hhgregg in particular use apps to engage shoppers." /> Mobile 500 retailers tap into apps | Top500Guide.com


Mobile 500 retailers tap into apps

August 20, 2015 02:21 PM

It’s all about engagement. Just ask Mobile 500 wedding retailer David’s Bridal, which uses mobile apps more to generate in-store shopping and loyalty than to drive direct sales. 

For example, getting a mobile shopper to make an appointment at one of its some 300 stores is a top priority, says Kristen Klock, director of omnichannel for the retailer. 

Why? 70% of consumers who book an appointment for a wedding consultation—be it for trying on a bridal gown, selecting bridesmaid dresses or looking at accessories—show up. And 60% of those who show up buy something.

That’s why in addition to selling via its mobile app and mobile site, David’s Bridal, No. 265 in the just-released Mobile 500, is focusing on using mobile to make setting an appointment extremely easy.

“In our business the store experience is very important. A wedding dress is a considered purchase,” Klock says. “And so for us, mobile traffic, appointments and getting shoppers to register with us are important metrics we look at. We aren’t just focused on commerce.”

The retailer still generates ample sales via mobile and it is growing. 22% of e-commerce sales stem from smartphones and 12% comes from tablets, and mobile sales grew 70% year over year. Smartphone traffic is split evenly between Google Inc.’s Android and Apple iOS, but sales are much higher on iPhones. However, mobile success isn’t measured by sales alone or even mainly by direct m-commerce sales, Klock says.

More retailers in the Mobile 500 are tapping into apps. 303 retailers in the just-released Mobile 500 offer apps, up from 269 a year earlier. That means 61% of retailers in the Mobile 500 now have apps. Additionally, sales via mobile apps are on the rise, growing 69% to $59.86 billion in 2015 from $35.48 billion in 2014, according to the Mobile 500.

But Mobile 500 retailers realize there’s much more to an app strategy than direct sales. For example, because appointments are so critical, David’s Bridal in late 2013 overhauled its desktop website appointment booking process. Previously, a shopper would fill out a form requesting an appointment and a David’s Bridal customer service representative would call the shopper back or she would be redirected to another site to book the appointment. After the retailer made it possible to quickly book online, web appointments increased 300% and the majority of appointments are now booked that way rather than by calling a store. Recently David’s optimized what it calls “the appointment flow” for its app, which it launched last year using vendor Prolific Interactive. 

In the app, a consumer clicks to make an appointment, chooses the type of appointment (such as wedding dress or bridesmaid dress) and either types in her ZIP code or allows the phone to retrieve and enter her location using GPS. She then views a list of stores nearby and selects a store to view available dates and times for her type of appointment. “Some stores have 10 fitting rooms, some have 50,” Klock says. The app user then selects a time that works with her schedule, enters her phone number and name, hits “submit” and she is done. 

David’s also is working to optimize appointment booking on the mobile site as well, and it’s no wonder: In the app with the simplified appointment booking process, about 2.5% of consumers book an appointment; on the site about 1% do, Klock says.

David Bridal prioritizes its app, and Klock works to ensure it stands out and offers features not available on the retailer’s mobile site in order to justify consumers downloading it.

The mobile app, for example offers a bridal gown finder tool that lets an app user answer a series of questions about her dress preferences and then view a curated selection of dresses that fit her requests. That’s not available on the retailer’s desktop or mobile site. 90,000 consumers have tried out the tool, which just launched in January, Klock says. It plans to launch similar tools in the app later this year to help brides select bridesmaid dresses and invitations.

The point of all the little extras is to make it worth it for shoppers to download the app and to keep them engaged. It seems to be working. All of the most important metrics David Bridal tracks, such as conversions, appointments and registrations, are higher for the app than the mobile site. For example, getting a bride or other person involved in planning an upcoming wedding to register with David’s Bridal is a top priority, Klock says. Since the wedding planning process on average lasts about 9 months, David’s Bridal wants a shopper to register so it can interact with her early and continue to market all the wedding related items it sells—such as invitation and favors—throughout the lengthy  (and often expensive) wedding planning process, she says.

Mobile 500 retailer hhgregg Inc. also focuses its app strategy on engagement. “The items we sell are considered major purchases, and a lot of times people are doing that last bit of research in our app before walking into the store,” says Kevin Lyons, senior vice president of e-commerce for the retailer, No. 247 in the Mobile 500. The retailer says its tablet and smartphone sales are on target to grow 37% to $31.5 million this year. Lyons says 10-15% of the retailer’s online sales stem from mobile devices and on average 30-35% of its online traffic is mobile, but  mobile traffic climbs as high as 50-60% of traffic during the holiday season.

Apps also can offer appealing features that mobile sites cannot. For instance, hhgregg has for the past two years maintained a mobile gaming app during football season. Consumers could download the app and transform into a football player dodging cheerleaders, fans and referees across a stadium branded by vendors who paid hhgregg to place their names on such stadium staples as scoreboards, blimps or the field.

Ads paid for by manufacturers drove app users to download the hhgregg commerce app and make purchases. App users could also opt in to receive alerts, for example, about doorbuster Black Friday deals at the retailer’s 230 physical stores. Hhgregg partnered with the Indianapolis Colts to offer fans at its games who downloaded the app and played the game the chance to win prizes, such as tablets. It also promoted the app at stores during big holiday shopping days. Store shoppers waiting for the doors to open were told about the game and given a code to enter when they downloaded the gaming app. Later, hhgregg paid for merchandise bought in-store by a few lucky shoppers who played the app game. At its peak, the app ranked No. 9 in the Apple App Store among the most-downloaded apps, Lyons says. 




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