The impact of COVID-19 has been profound during 2020 and it has made many industry sectors rethink significant aspects of their business models. This has probably been felt as intensely in retail and associated logistics as any other sector.
The consequences and repercussions of the original lockdown have been discussed and debated at great length, particularly in respect of which parts of customer behavior is temporary and what is likely to be a more permanent shift in their purchasing habits. What is becoming clear is that the second and possibly subsequent waves of restrictions will if anything accelerate the rate of traction of new behavior patterns for customers, like using a shopping app, to find a more permanent footing and so become ‘the new normal’.
The rapid growth of online shopping has seen a proliferation of websites being updated to more effectively support this. However, while these websites can support the activity and process of online selection and purchasing, they are not necessarily able to provide many of the functions now considered to be crucial to the smooth introduction of an effective online shopping experience. Nor are they able support the need for a cross-channel retail strategy, as the effects of COVID-19 start to recede and the high street and malls return as a still important part of retail.
This is where the introduction of mobile phone, tablet and desktop computer apps are becoming increasingly valuable.
Apps are able to not only meet the demands of online commerce, but can also address the critical issue of customer loyalty. Apps are able to encourage customers to easily return to a chosen supplier rather than being faced with the choice of a number of supplier websites where they can potentially select a competitor. Loyalty is a major factor in the high street and shopping malls but is being lost in the online world.
Malcolm Carroll, Director of BlueFinity International says: “Accessing an app is like entering a shop to browse and purchase an item, whereas choosing from a multiple number of websites is like standing in the middle of a market with multiple vendors all trying to sell you the same item.”
There is a myriad of other advantages of having an app compared to a website. These include increased security, location-based communication with your customers, integrated use of phone technology (GPS, Bluetooth), information retention and display, the personalization of the shopping experience and a far higher conversion to purchase rate than websites. It is clear to see why apps in the retail sector are fast becoming a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.
And the introduction of apps is not just for the larger stores and suppliers, as new no-code/low-code app development platforms are making them easily within reach of all retail outlets, no matter the size and their level of experience with technology.
One such no-code/low-code app development platform is Evoke from BlueFinity, one of the new generation of products which is making what was a previously challenging and expensive option of electing to deploy apps, now a very affordable, accessible and viable one for all retailers. Using Evoke, companies are now able to design and deploy the apps that specifically meet the needs of the company and their customers, and they do not have to employ specialist app developers to do it but can use their existing staff to create apps.
Evoke provides a point and click, drag and drop and option select development process, supported by an extensive array of functional routines and widgets, that anyone can use.
The results are sophisticated, full function apps that can run on and be optimized for any device and operating system (phones, tablets, watches and televisions using IOS, Android and Windows as well as Windows, Linux and Apple desktops) and can be fully integrated with any type of database a retailer has or wants to use (SQL, Oracle, DB2, MultiValue etc).
For those retailers with more experience or existing systems, there is also no limit to the degree of customization, future enhancement and development, and they have the ability to re-use and incorporate routines and code that they already have.
Evoke will generate their app as a web, hybrid or native app, with the ability to generate fully structured Visual Studio and Xamarin solutions for onward development as well as providing the capacity to include the addition of custom code or 3rd party components as required.
Carroll of BlueFinity adds: “No-code/low-code opens up entirely new possibilities for retailers, and is the way to get the app that is right for both you and your customers without a lengthy and costly development process. The latest releases of Evoke now include full retail support, making available multiple product displays and purchase experiences, customer information retention, shopping baskets and multiple payment and delivery options. In fact, the complete store within an app!“