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Consider an update to your mobile apps to be ready for each holiday season

The holidays are a smart time to update your apps. Over the past few years, holiday sales have seen a shift, with an increasing number of sales taking place on mobile devices.

2017 was the first year that purchases via desktop fell below the 50 percent mark. Smartphone and desktop purchases are now neck and neck at 45 and 46 percent respectively. If we look at Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday specifically, 2017 saw a new record, with 66 percent of purchases being made on a mobile device.

What this boils down to is that mobile matters—especially for the holidays—making this the perfect time to update your apps and make sure they are optimized for the holiday season.

If you’re new to the consumer marketplace and this is your first holiday season, it may require more work than you think. We have worked with clients in several consumer industries—from flowers to greeting cards—so we know how important it is to make sure you maximize holiday sales, well beyond the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

BloomNet, our floral customer, needs to remain extra focused around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, while the greeting card industry also has a lot to gain on Mother’s Day, and even more during Christmas.

The holiday season is the time to step back, review your app, and make the necessary mobile app updates so you get the maximum revenue from the coming holiday season (and those to follow).

4 reasons why you should update your apps for the holidays

1.    Better customer experience

A mobile app allows your customers to interact with your brand quickly. U.S. consumers are spending up to five hours per day on their smartphones, making a mobile app one of the easiest ways to reach customers. During the busy holiday season, you need to make sure your app is functioning optimally and stands out from the other apps in your industry. You also need to make sure your app is capable of scaling to meet increased usage during the holidays. As more people use mobile apps to shop, your app infrastructure on both the device and in the cloud must be able to keep up with the increased use.

2.    Effective marketing tool

Mobile apps easily integrate with social media sites, allowing loyal customers to share your app with friends and family. The holidays are the ideal time for this increased reach since everyone is in buying mode. You can also use your app to notify customers about holiday promotions and sales without overcrowding their email inbox.

3.    Increased revenue

Given the increasing number of sales being made on mobile, it only makes sense that updating your app for the holidays can lead to additional revenue. Mobile conversion rates increased 14 percent the week starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2017, proving that consumers are doing more than just window shopping on their smartphones. They are increasingly using them to complete the purchase process.

4.    Holiday jackpot

Smartphone vendors shipped over 400 million units in Q4 2017. Think of all the people waking up Christmas morning to a new smartphone. What do you think they do? They go to the app store to load their favorite apps and scan for new ones to add. This is a prime opportunity for you to advertise your mobile app updates to win over new customers and gain screen space on their new smartphone.

8 tips for an effective holiday application update

1.    Maximize speed and performance

When a customer shops via mobile app, they expect the entire process—from browsing through checkout—to be fast. The holidays may increase traffic to your app. You don’t want to risk losing customers and sales due to sluggish performance.

Make sure your app is performing as expected. It should load quickly and allow users to complete transactions without delay. If your app is slow, now is the time to fix it with an update.

2.    Optimize the customer journey

Customers will be quick to close out of your app and move to another one if they find the User Experience (UX) undesirable or frustrating. The customer journey should have been mapped out during the design phase of your app, but it should also constantly be revisited.

You should still monitor your app and gather feedback so you can continue to refine the UX and keep your customers happy as their needs change. To make sure you don’t miss out on holiday sales, your app should be monitored in real time with tools such as AppDynamics and Raygun. If updates are needed for performance, security, or to add new features, they should be done as quickly as possible during this busy time of year.

3.    Embrace diversity

Your app needs to perform well across different devices and operating systems. If it doesn’t, updates should be made now so you can take advantage of reaching the maximum number of users for the holidays. Remember that the market for these devices continues to expand and has likely changed since the last holiday your app experienced.

You should, of course, make sure your app works across both the Android and iOS operating systems, but also the different mobile devices on the market. This means thinking about screen size and shape, processing power, and connectivity options.

4.    Simplify mobile checkout

In its 2018 Retail Best Practices: Mobile Web report, Forrester predicted that US retail smartphone sales will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18 percent over the next five years. A recent Google study found that 46 percent of respondents prefer to complete the entire purchase process on their smartphone.

If you want to convert product browsing into sales, the checkout process needs your time and attention. Mobile payment support is a must, and it has to be easy.

Customers do not want to repeatedly enter their credit card information. It should be retrieved through a secure token, and shipping and billing information should be saved within the app for pain-free checkout. Your app should also accept newer payment options, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, to give customers the option to use their preferred method.

5.    Reward repeat customers with a loyalty program

A loyalty program is a great way to show your current customers you care about their business and understand their needs. Use customer history data to present consumers with relevant rewards and bonus offers.

In the case of selling flowers, purchase history can be used to present a customer who always buys two dozen roses on Valentine’s Day with a free vase or a coupon for 50 percent off the second dozen, since you know this customer is likely to make the same purchase again. The promotion makes sure they still purchase through you and not another provider.

A loyalty program can also be marketed to attract new customers and can be used as a selling point for your app in the app stores. Once customers are involved in the program, they are more likely to stay with your business since they have a vested interest.

6.    Use push notifications

Push notifications can be used to deliver coupons and inform customers about holiday sales. You can reach out to customers during peak shopping hours as the holidays approach, contributing to more sales. Push notifications can also remind users that have not opened your app in a while that you’re still present and valuable.

7.    Offer holiday promotions

Customers are always looking for a good deal, but it is expected during the holiday season. Be sure you deliver, using your app to promote discounts and increase sales. The time to market these promotions is now, as the majority of marketers are planning to start promoting holiday products and sales in November.

8.    Incorporate holiday themes

It may sound corny, but you may attract more users around the holidays if you update your apps with holiday-themed designs and features. Some simple snowflakes and candy canes for Christmas or hearts for Valentine’s Day can make your app stand out and appear less generic. It is an easy update that can increase visibility.

Pressed for time? Optimize app development during the holiday season

So what do you do if you want to update your apps for the holidays, but you are strapped for time or resources? Your development efforts should be focused where you will see the biggest return.

Apple is still the leader. In the week leading up to Christmas last year, 44 percent of device activations were on Apple devices. Samsung came in second place at 26 percent. If you have to choose between making an update for Apple versus Android, go with Apple. You will reach more customers.

But don’t just focus on the latest Apple phone, as many people have older models. The iPhone 6, for example, was one of the top Apple devices activated during the 2017 holiday season despite newer models being available. This type of research can help your mobile app development team focus on the most impactful updates.

The holidays are an important time to re-evaluate your apps to make sure they are providing customers what they need. But this type of evaluation should be going on year-round, enabling your app to consistently improve. This all boils down to usability, as this is the most important ingredient to a successful mobile app. Updates that focus on user wants and needs will make the greatest contribution to sales, especially during the holidays when consumers have long shopping lists to fill and little time.

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