Modern Day Hansels and Gretels and the Quest for Superior Customer Experiences

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Companies have poured millions of dollars into developing mobile apps to create memorable customer experiences that engage and retain customers. Is it working? The answer is, it depends.

Today, mobile customers are unknowing Hansels and Gretels, marking their journeys with data-rich breadcrumbs (tiny bits of information about their movements), and revealing much about their relationships with the brands in which they interact.

Of course, there is nothing new about this concept. Companies have used cookies to trace consumer movements on their websites for years. However, with consumers migrating rapidly toward mobile devices, the capture, evaluation, and use of breadcrumbs to optimize the customer experience has become essential.

Are mobile customer experiences worth the investment?

It is critical for companies placing a large bet on mobile customers to understand app usage beyond just the number of downloads. The most downloaded apps are not always the most used, or valued, apps. In fact, while Monthly App Downloads is an important metric, Monthly Active App Users is arguably a more important metric. And this is where the significance of analyzing breadcrumbs comes in.

The good news about mobile breadcrumbs is that, like in the tale of Hansel and Gretel, they are meant to improve the customer experience by providing key data back to the brand. It is easy to see how this works because these modern-day trail markers identify what the customer has done while using a mobile app, (i.e. buttons that were pushed, pages retrieved, orders placed, requests for customer service, and so forth).

Armed with the rich information revealed by the breadcrumbs, a brand can learn how to streamline customer journeys, reduce interaction friction, improve personalized content, and produce better outcomes for all parties.

Not surprisingly, not all apps have the same impact or staying power.

Android and Apple each offer over 2 million apps to consumers. That’s obviously a lot from which to choose. And so brands need to make sure that their mobile customers are getting sufficient value from their apps in order to induce repeated usage, as well as favorable ratings and word of mouth.

Despite the logical appeal of many apps (think Facebook, Snapchat, Pandora, Waze, etc.), app retention is a critical problem, with the majority of apps being discarded in less than 30 days. So tracking usage and understanding what is driving app retention is vital to providing superior customer experiences and keeping the customer engaged with the brand.

Here are some key questions every brand needs to answer:
  • Who is using the app? Are they new or established customers? Are they high or low value customers? What are their personal attributes?
  • How are customers using the app? Are they using a few or many features? How often are users returning to the app?
  • What are the predominant journeys that app users take? What early stage uses drive more extensive uses of the app?
  • How much and what kinds of interaction friction do users encounter in completing a journey?
  • How do users reach out for support? When do they require live support with an associate?
  • Are issues handled and resolved expeditiously?
  • How do users feel about their app experiences? What do they suggest will make them better?

The moral of the modern Hansel and Gretel story is brands need to be information-savvy and know how to apply data and insights throughout their customers’ mobile journeys. A slick-looking app is not enough to guarantee retention; intelligence powering the user experience is necessary to ensure that the app is retained and is frequently used by the customer. In these cases, the investment in a mobile app is highly worth it, as heavy app users tend to be high value customers. And, if the app is useful and sharable, then both customers and the brand will be as happy as Handel and Gretel in the end.

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