Study: Apps can make or break customer loyalty—especially among Millennials

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Study: Apps can make or break customer loyalty—especially among Millennials

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy - 05/17/2018
Retailer apps that offer value and high levels of functionality drive purchases — plus they are a catalyst for long-term customer loyalty.

Brand apps play a crucial role in brand affinity, as nearly half of consumers said a positive experience with a retailer’s app translates into greater loyalty, according to “The Brand App Experience: Value, Purpose and Brand Loyalty,” a report from WillowTree, a firm that designs and develops digital experiences.

According to the data, 67% of customers have downloaded brand apps, with those from banks, restaurants and retailers leading the charge. A majority of customers (68%) said that if they are loyal to brands, they will download the company’s app.

Loyalty is highest among Millennials (51%), who said that a positive brand app experience would make them more likely to purchase from that brand consistently. This is compared to 47% of customers overall, and 35% of Baby Boomers.

To ensure they can maintain this loyalty and drive customer engagement, functionality must meet customer expectations and deliver high value. For example, 65% of consumers expect promotions and exclusive deals; 59% expect access to loyalty programs, and 50% want to make purchases within the app. Respondents who had positive experiences through these and other services said they were more likely to make purchases, sign up for loyalty programs, use the app regularly, and increase their loyalty to the brand, according to the data.

“The brand app is much more than just another marketing channel — it is the cornerstone of a brand's relationship with its customers,” said Tobias Dengel, CEO of WillowTree. “Our relationships to apps are deeply personal in nature, and an app's quality and usefulness acts as an indicator of how much a brand cars about us. The brand app can no longer be a check-box item, especially in an extremely saturated market.”

Consumers who had a negative experience said they would make fewer purchases, not recommend the brand to others, and become less loyal to the brand. Others stated they would delete the app altogether. In fact, 43% have deleted up to a quarter of their brand apps, and 22% have deleted more than half of their brand apps, according to the study.

“The ability to foster a positive experience has enormous potential for brands looking to drive engagement and loyalty,” Dengel said. “It puts brands in a critical position to understand the role that the brand app plays in the customer journey, in the customer relationship, and the value they can build into these products. Otherwise they risk joining the vast ranks of deleted apps.”

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