We’ve all been plenty warned that mobile is already here. And many businesses have so far taken heed with the development of mobile apps and mobile-optimised sites. But a few companies are taking it one step further by completely rethinking how they interact with their customers through the smartphone. In an age where consumers expect mobile-friendly experiences as a standard, these retail companies punch through expectations and create experiences that both delight and garner brand loyalty.

Max Factor’s social CRM strategy and augmented reality experience

The U.S.-based makeup company got its start in the early 1900s putting makeup on Hollywood actresses and then selling those products to women who wanted the movie star look for themselves. Now it’s competing in a much more crowded field of beauty retailers and it’s embracing mobile to set itself apart.

In China, Max Factor revamped its customer relationship management (CRM) strategy to be more social in order to compete better in the region. They aimed to understand their customer better by looking at social attributes and engagement behaviour of their followers on the messaging app WeChat. Then they revamped their loyalty program to reward people for becoming customers, making purchases and repurchases, and for sharing the brand to their networks within WeChat. After four months, Max Factor started seeing increased membership rates and higher purchase values.

The makeup company also partnered with augmented reality (AR) app Blippar to give customers an interactive mobile experience when they’re shopping at the brick-and-mortar store. Shoppers can scan UPC codes on any Max Factor product using the Blippar app to bring up a wealth of product info, reviews, and video tutorials. There’s even an AR tool that uses your phone camera to match concealer shades against the skin tone of your hand.

Even when shopping in stores, consumers like to research products on their phones to validate their purchases. Max Factor saw this as an opportunity to increase sales. Because a more informed customer is more likely to buy.

 

Starbucks creates a lovable loyalty program

The behemoth coffee company first rolled out its mobile app in January 2011. And it’s been raking in the boost in profits ever since. The renowned mobile app is a one-stop-shop for interacting with Starbucks on so many levels. You can load your Starbucks Card into the app and pay for in-store purchases using your smartphone. If funds run low, you can easily reload cash using a PayPal account. The app also comes with an addictive loyalty program where purchases earn stars which you redeem for rewards and use to move up the loyalty ranks. And one of the app’s most popular features, Order Ahead, lets customers do just that - thereby killing one more queue from their day.

With all these features, the app has proven itself wildly popular and a major driver of business. In the most recent fiscal quarter, transactions on Starbucks Cards accounted for 40 percent of company-operated transactions in the U.S. It now has 13 million active members in its loyalty program, up 16 percent year-over-year.

 

Argos bridges the gap between online and offline shopping

Argos sees the value of appealing to consumers through both digital channels and traditional brick-and-mortar shops using an omni-channel approach. The U.K-based chain offers 1-click reservations in their app which lets people buy products online and go pick it up in-store. The app also lets customers check inventory so they can target the right store for their needs. And Argos recently partnered with retail technology supplier Microlise to track delivery trucks for real-time parcel tracking.

Argos is owned by Sainsbury’s, which itself takes the omni-channel marketing approach to heart. CEO Mike Coupe told Marketing Week, “We have created our entire strategy around the fact our customers want us to be there whenever and wherever they want. We’d love shoppers to continue to shop at our big supermarkets but we also realise online will only keep rising and you need to be prepared [for every scenario]. Click-and-collect is crucial, and if you take Argos, which now has nearly £1bn of its sales through a mobile device, it’s clear that would have been inconceivable just five years ago.”

 

The “mobile first” mantra has been playing for some time now. But we’re still just discovering all the innovative new ways we can use mobile to engage customers and build loyalty. These companies are just a few examples of those thinking up new forms of interactions with consumers and redefining how we conduct business in the digital age.