Building your Mobile App Experience: Utility

Posted by David Kovacs on Sep 27, 2016 10:00:00 AM
David Kovacs

This is the final post in a three-part series helping retailers plan their mobile strategy. Read parts one and two here: Part One: Commerce, Part Two: Loyalty & Engagement 

With an app you have the opportunity to deliver an experience tailored for your best customers. So what should that experience be? For every brand that answer will be different, but this series presents a framework outlining four key functional categories: Commerce, Loyalty, Engagement, and Utility.

Our previous posts explored Commerce and Loyalty & Engagement. Today we'll focus on Utility. 


Every app should have some utility aspect. Easy-to-use store locator and barcode scanner are two basic and easy to implement examples. For many retailers, simply offering the ability to scan an item in-store and quickly see product reviews or alternate sizes and colors is value enough.

However, for some retailers the utility functionality can not only drive massive amounts of traffic, but it can also transform the app into an acquisition tool. There are two approaches that have been very successful in this regard.Sephora.jpg

The first is to consider the customer’s purchasing journey and identify ways in which technology can enhance the experience. This approach typically ends up with a unique piece of functionality built into the app. Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” feature is a great example of this. Using augmented reality, the app superimposes lipstick shades on to the customer’s lips live. Not only is this fun, but it aids in the purchase process and drives a lot of traffic and new customers to the app.

The other approach for utility would be to consider the lifestyle of your customer and build an app focused primarily on enhancing their activity in a way that is relevant to your brand. Commerce is secondary in this approach.

A great example of this is Under Armour’s acquisition of MapMyFitness, a utility app for workouts. Under Armour leverages the fitness app’s huge install base to introduce the brand to MapMyFitness customers through contests, as well as inserting a “Shop Under Armour” section into the app. Additionally, the workout app provides a tremendously rich and valuable data set to Under Armour about the workout habits of their customers. They know when I run, bike, or work out and can use that information to market to me in ways that are personalized and highly relevant.

Putting it all together

Reflecting on the four elements of app strategy – Commerce, Loyalty, Engagement, and Utility – the best app experiences offer some combination of all four. However, those experiences evolved over time and no great app began that way out of the gate. Critical to success is getting a solid app in the market, receiving feedback, learning, and iterating.

The best course of action for a brand to start is to focus on two of the four elements and getting those right for customers. Typically, this means a great commerce experience and one of the other three. Commerce and Loyalty is a logical combination if you have a loyalty program, while lifestyle brands with great content might lean towards Engagement as the second element.

The commerce business case alone – increased conversion rate and AOV, along with higher visit frequency – should be strong enough to deliver meaningful results. The other elements – when done thoughtfully and evolving over time with learning – will make your app indispensable for your most valuable, and loyal, customers.


Read this three-part series in its entirety.

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About the Author

david-kovacs-bw.jpgDavid Kovacs is the VP of Business Development at GPShopper where he is responsible for driving adoption of the mobile commerce platform by retailers and technology partners. In this role, David has worked with brands and technology partners to deliver unique solutions to drive incremental revenue and brand engagement. Prior to joining GPShopper, David was a Director of Business Development at GlobalBay, a pioneer in the development of mobile applications for retailers.

Prior to working in retail technology, David held positions in channel sales at Avaya and was a management consultant at IBM. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont and hold his MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.


Topics: Mobile Retail Apps, Retail Industry Research, Omnichannel Retail

About GPShopper

GPShopper is a mobile commerce platform and app developer for retailers, using technology to transform the total retail experience.  GPShopper is a Synchrony solution. 
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