How retailer mobile apps can make, or break, the customer experience

 In Blog

Companies are always looking for new ways to solidify their relationship with their customer base and grow. Some do a good job while others miss. New technology often helps, but is not always the answer.

Mobile apps are a great example. Apps should be considered a double-edged sword. They can cut both ways if you are not careful. Let’s take a look at Starbucks, Kohl’s and OmnyPay and see how improving the app can improve the customer experience.

Starbucks’ new “Breakfast On Us” promotion is an example of both improving and hurting the customer experience. Starbucks is one of the leading marketers. They have successfully grown their business and customer base over many years in a variety of ways. This newest promotion does a good job for many customers, but a lousy job for others.

Customers who have the lousy experience would be better off not knowing about this promotion at all because it hurts their relationship with Starbucks. Yet Starbucks keeps making the same mistake, over and over again.

“Breakfast on Us” does not work with Starbucks smartphone app

This program is similar to countless others the company often runs. When a customer walks in and buys something, they get a “Breakfast on Us” card with one sticker. Every time they have a new purchase, they get another sticker. When they get five stickers, they win their prize like a free cup of coffee or breakfast item or something like that.

Customers who pay for their purchases with cash or credit card can stick this card in their wallet, so when they dig into their pocket, they grab the card as well. These customers have no problem.

The problem comes when customers use the Starbucks app, which the company promotes like crazy. Users can’t keep the card with the phone. So, when they pull the phone out to open the app and pay for their purchase, they often forget the card and miss the sticker. When the customer realizes they missed the promotion, they get ticked. This happens all the time.

This is an easy problem to fix, however Starbucks seems to have missed the problem every time they run a similar promotion. Many users complain they would have qualified for several freebies, but are happy just to get squeeze one out simply because they forget about the card when they pay with their iPhone or Android.

Make sure your promotions don’t cut both ways

That’s when their stomach twists and turns and they want to kick themselves for not remembering. Is that the reaction Starbucks wants to create with their valuable customers? I think not. So, what’s the fix?

The idea to reward customers is terrific. Companies should always be on the lookout for new ways to win more customers hearts. However, they should be aware that new technology doesn’t always mix well with old fashioned ways of doing things.

In this case, Starbucks should have two versions of this promotion, one for cash, credit card or Starbucks club card customers, and the other for smartphone app customers. Traditional paying customers are fine. It’s the smartphone app customers who get disappointed and aggravated.

It would be easy for Starbucks to add a feature to their app. Something that automatically tracks customer purchases and rewards them. This feature could be a flashy on-screen note to capture the customer attention. This could go a long way to improving the customer relationship.

So, Starbucks has had this same problem for quite a while. Why don’t they learn? Fixing this problem would be much better than the current system which creates animosity.

OmnyPay helps Kohl’s improve customer satisfaction with updated app

Kohl’s department store had a similar problem. Their app disappointed customers. However, Kohl’s was helped by a company called OmnyPay, which re-wrote the app and handles this part of the business. Now, the Kohl’s app is much more popular with users and effective to the company.

Starbucks should take the same path. In fact, they can take this idea one step further. They can have unique rewards for each customer based on what that customer has purchased in the past. They have complete information on each individual customer who is part of their loyalty program. They know what each customer wants. After all what good is giving away a generic free breakfast item when the customer doesn’t want one?

Bottom line, smartphone technology and apps are an incredible way to reach customers in new and creative ways. Use technology in new ways to give the customer what they want and that will improve customer retention. However, developing a great app is more complicated than many know.

So, take lessons from Starbucks, Kohl’s and OmnyPay. You don’t want to tick off a slice of your customer pie in, an effort to improve things. That’s never a good idea. Just imagine how much better every company would be if they understood the app road ahead with all the potholes and how to avoid them.

by Jeff Kagan

Photo courtesy of Kohl’s

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