For small- and medium-sized businesses, a successful mobile app represents a critical opportunity to tap into a global in-app market — an ecosystem that generated 175 billion downloads and more than $86 billion in consumer spending last year.
Staking a claim in this marketplace, however, requires working with data to understand SMB audiences. Every entrepreneur needs answers to key questions about the customers they’re hoping to serve, including which segments of mobile consumers are seeking app experiences with SMBs, and what these shoppers want from the time they spend with SMBs on their smartphone screens.
To help identify and categorize one important audience segment in this space — millennials and Gen Z shoppers — we recently worked with Ypulse, an expert on younger consumers, to survey 1,000 shoppers aged 13–35 about apps and SMB shopping.
In the sections that follow, we’ll look at the results from our check-in with these “mobile prodigies,” as well as the latest industry research, to better understand what SMBs can do to meaningfully engage with these emerging customers in the mobile space. As SMB apps begin to find their users and leverage the power of first-party data and contextual mobile creative, here’s what mobile prodigies tell us that SMBs need to know about the tools they create.
The Time For SMB Apps Is Now
Between 42% and 67% of SMBs are now expected to have an app that consumers can download, according to a survey by Clutch. Mobile prodigies are waiting for small- and medium-sized businesses to find them with in-app opportunities: More than half (51%) told us they would download an SMB’s app if it would provide them with discounts and special offers.
To act on this idea effectively, it’s important for enterprises to partner with technology experts who can deliver data-derived insights about what these audiences want; inspiring with an offer requires analyzing and activating consumers based on their permissions-granted data histories.
Discounts And Offers Will Drive Downloads
Female respondents were especially keen to tap into the discount and special offer space: 61% of female mobile prodigies aged 13–17 said they would download an SMB app to get them, and 67% aged 18–24 said the same. This means there is a prime opportunity to advance for various female-oriented brands in the SMB space.
But don’t forget that data tells us millennial women are cause-oriented consumers: They’re in search of companies that promote social good as well as irresistible merchandise. Tap into this motivating factor to create even more meaningful interactions.
For Yoplait, “meaningful” meant taking on the topic of mom-shaming — meaning over-the-top, patronizing how-to-parent articles and commentary directed specifically at women. This is a perfect blend of cause and demographic in the marketplace, and there is nothing preventing SMBs from telling these kinds of positive narratives. Likewise, P&G’s “We See Equal“ campaign leaned in on empowering young women (and young men) to take control of their own experiences, both at home and in public spaces.
Mobile Prodigies Want Info About In-Store Inventory
About one-third of the 1,000 millennial and Gen Z consumers we surveyed (31%) said they would download an SMB’s mobile app to learn about what’s in stock at the store.
With first-party data and partnerships that drive strong data analytics, the opportunity now exists to select inventory and promote selections of inventory that are contextually suited to the mobile prodigies in-app SMBs want to reach. Recent MIT research shows that this kind of algorithmic stocking approach can provide retailers with more accurate profit expectations.
Mobile Prodigies Want Invitations to Events
Physical retail experiences are among the attractions of engaging with SMBs via mobile app: 28% of respondents said they would download an enterprise’s app if it meant getting invitations to special events, openings and in-store appearances. It’s an approach that’s resonating with millennials at Rebecca Minkoff stores, for example. To build a greater sense of community, the accessible luxury fashion brand hosts everything from art openings and fireside chats to launches from female entrepreneurs.
For mobile prodigies, physical stores can dovetail with in-app calls to action to become a nexus for in-person local and regional consumer engagements. (You might need an events manager before long!)
Younger Consumers Will Share App Content
When it comes to telling family and friends about inventory and offers, 29% of mobile prodigies said they’d share what they found in an SMB’s downloaded app. According to Marketing Charts, brands such as Payless, Forever 21, Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret have seen recent lifts in this kind of word-of-mouth sharing among millennials. The data is tracking to actual outcomes in the retail world.
These are the approaches that mobile prodigies tell us tend to work. For SMBs, the question then becomes: can we — and should we — pursue these in-app experiences right now? The answer, it turns out, is a resounding yes.
So, how are SMBs going to reach these mobile prodigies in the first place?
The good news is that the days of technology hurdles preventing SMBs from capitalizing on mobile-app opportunities are already becoming a thing of the past. Based on our survey, it’s clear that SMBs have started to make some inroads to the mobile prodigies audiences: Nearly one-fifth of the millennials and Gen Z shoppers (18%) said they have already downloaded an app from at least one small- or medium-sized business. Younger parents pushed the already-downloaded percentages higher still: 24% of our respondents have already brought an SMB app into their smartphone experiences.
With the ecosystem expanding in these ways, and with the strategies that these consumers have identified in the sections above, the time has never been better for SMBs to build the experiences that mobile prodigies are asking them to deliver. The future of mobile shopping relies on the ability — and the agility — of enterprises to make a meaningful in-app play.