What Macy’s is doing right (and wrong) in mobile

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Will mobile kill the brick-and-mortar star?

Macy’s has been aggressively developing its mobile presence since 2009, before many other retailers even knew what mobile was. Since the company introduced its first mobile app, the channel has delivered continued growth in terms of session length, sales conversion rate, average order value and sales penetration to total .com sales.

At the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 102nd Annual Convention & Expo earlier this year, Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon explained the importance of mobile:

For the millennial, it’s almost expected with technology, so for us not to be there—particularly in the mobile space—you could potentially miss out on the largest segment in the population today. Between QR codes, what we’re doing on Facebook and Instagram that is feeding into our mobile app, what we do with shopkick—everybody is different but that is why personalization becomes so important because there isn’t just one cookie-cutter approach to it.

Macy’s is putting its mobile energy into commerce, omnichannel and marketing. The company succeeds in getting targeted offers into customers’ hands via text messaging, and in bridging the gap between online and offline experiences. In the fall of 2012, for example, Macy’s introduced an app that helped shoppers plan for Black Friday. Features included new offers every five minutes, as well as turn-by-turn GPS directions that allowed shoppers find sale items in specific store locations.

But Macy’s still has a long way to go, and here’s how it can improve.

Brilliant mobile strategy, less-than-stellar mobile app?

For all the mobile savvy Macy’s appears to exhibit, for a long time the retail giant’s iOS app has been met with less-than-stellar user reviews. In the Apple App Store this past March, the app had an average rating of 1.5 stars. Out of 26 reviews, 21 gave it one star, only three people gave it five stars, and two people gave it four stars. Here are some comments from frustrated reviewers:

Terrible
“Cannot browse very long before there’s some sort of ‘technical error.’ If this isn’t fixed soon… delete!”

No Wishes for Me!
“Seriously? I can’t view my Wish List with this app? Maybe I’ll just shop at Nordstrom where I can….”

Zero Stars
“Crashes constantly.”

Thanks for nothing
“Updated the app, now it crashes or says that “we encountered a technical issue” at every turn. Gonna have to shop on the laptop now—but less often. Your loss Macy’s for using that low rent Indonesian app design company.”

Horrible
“Much like the website the app never works… ALWAYS under maintenance.”

Problems & More Problems
“After many updates, this app continues to be the most frustrating shopping experience ever.”

Fails on iPhone4 – latest version
“Downloaded the latest version last night and tried to buy some items. No cart and app continually cycled through to a time-out. There’s another ‘Big Bug’ to fix.

We tested the Macy’s app on an iPhone 5. Despite repeated “Oops!” messages during product searches, we were able to finally place an order and take advantage of a 20 percent-off VIP promotion that ran March 12-17. The order was confirmed in a timely manner and the items arrived just a few days later.

The error messages were annoying, but perhaps Macy’s more loyal customers are willing to put up with them for good deals from a name they trust. According to the NRF’s latest holiday consumer spending survey, 36.6 percent of shoppers say that sales and discounts are the most important factors in deciding where to shop.

Or perhaps Macy’s customers are willing to cut the retailer some slack in the mobile app department, especially when nearly half of businesses still don’t have a mobile-optimized site or app at all. (And when they do, 75 percent of those businesses admit to not having a well-defined, long-term mobile strategy.)

Using funnel analyses to improve the user experience

To Macy’s credit, the retailer has updated the app several times since April—updates that have been mostly well-received by users. Today on the App Store, the average rating of the app is up to 2.5 stars, with multiple comments thanking the company for a “good update.” There’s still frustration with the app, however, as users are complaining that they can’t get the app to work with Passbook, as promised.

Macy’s isn’t currently a Kontagent customer, but it would’ve been interesting to see funnel conversions before and after each of these updates.

With kSuite Mobile, you can tag specific events within your apps to analyze user behaviors at very granular levels. Our retail customers use our funnel analysis to see the shopper’s path to purchase within the app, for example:

Search for item > View category > View item
> Add to cart > Complete purchase

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Mobile developers use funnel analysis to track and optimize user paths to conversions.

Custom events are specific user actions you define within your app, e.g., when a user clicks on a certain tab; when a user has been inactive too long; when a user looks at recommended items, etc. Then you can set these events into any funnel order you’d like simply by dragging and dropping the events into kSuite’s funnel builder.

It’s a powerful way to analyze user paths, pinpoint where users are dropping off and then identify specific design features or content that is causing them to exit the app. Then, you can change those features or content offers and compare before-and-after results to understand what is and isn’t working. (This is how mobile map maker Telenav uses it to increase conversions.)

Macy’s is on the right track in terms of its awareness of the importance of mobile, which, according to Forbes magazine, fits into the retailer’s #1 rule: “Recognize the sale where the customer is standing. Any complicating factor is a lost opportunity.” But, we also believe that the company can do better by applying an analytics solution built specifically for mobile retail to create a more engaging app, less frustrating user experience—and ultimately increase customer lifetime value.

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About the author: Catherine Mylinh is a member of Kontagent’s storytelling team, where she is head of PR, brand and content marketing. She is also the editor-in-chief of kScope. In her former life, Catherine was a news anchor for CBS and NBC. She credits her journalism and computer science roots—she was once a programmer!—for her love of learning and writing about all things high tech. You can contact Catherine at @cat_mylinh.

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