This weekend I found myself in the Oxford Street branch of John Lewis, returning a jacket I’d bought online. When I got to the cashier, he asked me for my receipt along with my loyalty card.
Being the modern (or maybe lazy is more accurate) consumer that I am, I opened the JL mobile app, used TouchID to login and access my digital receipt, and handed the cashier my phone. He verified the transaction and scanned my loyalty card. Done. No wallet, no paper, no plastic, no fuss!
Why am I telling you this? Well for starters, I could have bought that jacket anywhere, and of course, I could have chosen to return it via post, or have it collected from my house. Perhaps I might have decided to never to use the JL app or set foot inside one of their stores again, given the jacket was defective! But I didn’t, and here’s why…
Keep it Simple
Earlier this year, the brand consulting firm Siegel & Gale released the 2017 edition of their annual “Brand Simplicity Index,” which rates companies based on their ability to offer simple consumer experiences. Siegel & Gale’s belief (and mine for that matter) is that brands who embrace simplicity are more profitable.
JL was one of the best performing brands, rising 13 places to number 5 on the UK list. The parent group was the only company to have two individual brands among the top 25 (their supermarket chain Waitrose came
in 21st place). Leaving JL to one side, and looking at the all of the brands who are rising on this year’s list, it’s clear that they have something in common…
Awesome at Mobile
The last 12 months has seen a rapid maturation in terms of the quality of consumer mobile experiences. No longer are native applications just expensive vanity projects, they are now genuinely powerful tools that are driving meaningful revenue for the companies that build them, including JL. In industries like retail, travel, and consumer cyclicals, mobile is fast becoming the de facto vehicle for loyalty and re-engagement.
As the quality of experience has gone up, consumers have begun to spend more of their time inside of apps, but conversely, they are more selective about which apps they choose to engage with. As a result, being simple alone is not enough to conquer the initial hurdle of getting people to actually invest scarce home screen real estate to downloading your application.
Focusing on simplicity only is all well and good if you’re Amazon or Google, and you have the head-start of hundreds of millions of consumers using your apps, and leveraging embedded services inside of your own web browsers, mobile phones, and connected TVs.
For the rest of us, the secret to winning the hearts and minds of consumers is in offering genuine utility. Mobile is just one part of the overall puzzle, but it’s a very important one, and it underpins the success of brands like JL in the Siegel & Gale study.
Last year, Digital Experience Studio, 383 Project, published a fantastic book on brand utility titled “The Useful Brands Playbook” which I implore you to download and read. Jacob and the team at 383 believe that consumer technologies, such as mobile, are only just now entering the phase of maturity where they can begin to deliver the levels of utility required to move the needle on consumer behavior.
Useful brands build successfully on three core building blocks:
Of these building blocks, typically the biggest challenge is platform. Technology and processes today are in constant flux, meaning that product managers, engineers, and marketers need the right tools to enable them to test, validate, and activate new technologies quickly and without unnecessary risk.
Just add Data
Crucially, to be a really useful + simple brand you also need timely access to high-fidelity data to fuel your decisions. Which, until recently has been either slow or impossible. It’s no longer acceptable for a marketer to wait 48 hours for updated (and static!) customer lists or to have to file manual requests for segments of users who’ve been experiencing bad customer service, or app crashes. Customers expectations are high, competition is fierce, and they will move on at pace.
Companies like mParticle are changing this by building technologies that remove engineering bottlenecks and information silos, as well as democratize access to data across business units. Check out this post from our CMO who discusses how faster access to data directly impacts important business use-cases like custom audience targeting.
JL and my fantastic mobile-centric commerce experience is just one example of how a traditional brand has successfully leveraged mobile technology to keep themselves current in a competitive marketplace. They
offered me useful tools to make transacting with them easier, and ultimately drive advocacy, resulting in more sales.
Today’s challenger brands recognized this opportunity long ago and designed their business models and technical infrastructure from the mobile outwards. They had the benefit of being able to move fast, unburdened by legacy software, technologies, physical stores, and expensive overheads.
These companies also had the benefit of being able to leverage data at scale (and in near real-time) from their inception.
At mParticle, we’re really proud to be the technology partner supporting a number of fantastic brands who are obsessively focussed on making their consumer experiences smarter, simpler, more useful, and centered around mobile.