You’re wrapping up your workday and start to feel hungry. Suddenly, your cell phone buzzes. It’s a notification for $10 off at your favorite pizza place. You navigate to the app and place an order within seconds. You’re a regular customer, so your credit card info is already saved, and checkout is easy. Once the order is placed, you follow the order tracker and receive an alert on your phone when your pizza is ready for pickup. It’s a seamless mobile experience.
We use our mobile devices for almost everything nowadays—from ordering food and buying products to booking appointments and contacting customer support—so it’s more important than ever for businesses to have a strategy for mobile customer engagement.
What is mobile customer engagement?
Mobile customer engagement refers to companies using apps and other messaging channels to interact with customers and share information with them. The tactic helps businesses stay top of mind, increase brand loyalty, and drive revenue.
Businesses, for example, can send push notifications and text messages that keep consumers interested. And customers can make purchases or reach out for support via their smartphone or tablet, rather than having to switch devices or visit a store.
“I see [mobile engagement] as a two-way conversation initiated by the end-user or by the business,” says Paul Lalonde, a Zendesk product expert. “Generally speaking, it’s to encourage continuous usage of your app by providing contextual or relevant updates.”
While mobile engagement originally focused on apps, it’s shifting to include additional channels. Third-party messaging platforms (such as Google Business Messages and Apple Messages for Business) and mobile-first social media sites (like Instagram) are also key to the mobile customer experience and buyer journey.
“We’re seeing that customer engagement bleeds across different channels as well,” Lalonde says. “It’s no longer just happening within your app anymore.”
Why is mobile customer engagement important?
Nearly 40 percent of customers say the ability to connect with a brand through their preferred platform is the most important aspect of a good customer experience. Mobile engagement is key to providing that flexibility consumers want and expect.
It’s clear that today’s buyers prefer mobile. The number of mobile users continues to rise, with almost 7.5 billion mobile users expected by 2025. And almost 60 percent of Americans prefer to shop on their smartphones, according to an App Annie survey. If the majority of customers favor mobile interactions, focusing on improving mobile customer engagement only makes sense.
Nearly 40% of customers say the ability to connect with a brand through their preferred platform is the most important aspect of a good customer experience.
Apps, texting, and external social and messaging platforms also allow businesses to provide the fast, convenient service that customers crave. Companies can embed self-service options, like chatbots and help centers, right within their customer engagement mobile apps and messaging channels. That way, customers can get the support they need, no matter when and where they reach out.
5 ways to foster mobile customer engagement
To increase customer engagement, it’s not enough for your brand to be present on mobile. You also need to give your audience a reason to come back to your app (and other digital channels) again and again. Here are some tips for getting started.
1. Develop a mobile customer engagement strategy
Before you dive into mobile engagement, you need to build a strategy that clearly defines your mobile challenges, tactics, and goals. Having this strategy in place will help ensure your entire team stays in sync and will lead to the creation of a more seamless mobile customer experience.
Start by determining your problem areas. Use survey results, reviews, and existing customer data to identify pain points on mobile. Where and when do customers seem to abandon your app? What features are missing? What part of the mobile customer experience is falling flat?
Once you know where the challenges are, you can establish some guiding principles and objectives to help you move forward. For example, expand the functionality or improve the speed of your existing app. Or, perhaps it’s simply creating more buzz about the app to prompt downloads. Whatever the case may be, you should list the actionable steps you’ll take to achieve those goals and initiatives. Then, you’ll want to specify which customer engagement metrics you’ll use to track progress and measure success.
“The app makers that are actually using insight-led strategies are going to be the ones that are more successful at engaging with their customers,” Lalonde says.
2. Offer mobile customer support via messaging platforms
According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, people want to interact with businesses the same way they do with their friends and family. In today’s digital world, that means through their favorite mobile customer engagement platforms.
Specifically, consumers want the ability to connect with companies via messaging apps, which are easily accessible on their smartphones. Despite the popularity of messaging, fewer than 30 percent of companies offer self-service, live chat, social messaging, in-app messaging, or bots. You can stand out from the competition by giving customers what they want on mobile.
Invest in tools and rich features that enable customers to complete key tasks—whether those include buying something, scheduling a meeting, or asking a question—within your mobile app or their favorite messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
Your support team can lean on your app’s help center and mobile chatbots to handle message requests and provide 24/7 mobile app customer support. If the bot is unable to address a customer inquiry, you can program it to transfer the customer (and the conversation history) to a human agent.
3. Enhance your mobile UX design
If your app or website on mobile is slow or difficult to use, consumers will be quick to take their business elsewhere. Make sure your entire mobile experience is fast and intuitive.
Create a user-friendly mobile experience by:
- Keeping image sizes small for speedier load times and optimal display.
- Utilizing white space to your advantage and minimizing clutter on your pages.
- Ensuring navigation bars and headers are easy to follow. Avoid too many subfolders and links that can be hard to read and click on mobile.
- Simplifying your web design. Remember that less is more when it comes to mobile—take out excess popups and plugins, and limit the number of navigation headers.
Use your app and mobile website regularly to get a feel for the experience and how you can strengthen it. Try making a purchase or chatting with an agent as if you were an actual customer.
Think about your other digital channels, too. As mobile engagement continues to expand, there are opportunities to optimize social media platforms, mobile emails, and text messages for the best customer experience.
4. Use loyalty programs and gamification to grab attention
Brand loyalty programs and gamification encourage consistent use of your mobile app by making it fun and beneficial to use.
Integrate your app with your loyalty program so you can incentivize consumers to continuously engage with it. Consider Starbucks’ app—it’s easy to use, and customers can collect and track rewards every time they make a purchase on mobile. Forrester even went so far as to call the Starbucks app “possibly the most successful mobile ordering app of all time.” Starbucks mobile orders represented 26 percent of company-operated transactions in Q2 2021.
Embedding gamification into your app can also help attract customers and keep them coming back. Gamification, which involves adding elements of competition, taps into people’s competitive side. Duolingo, a foreign language education app, is a great example. Users have to complete various lessons to move forward, and they can compete against friends or other users to move up in different leagues. Thanks to its gamification strategy, Duolingo generated $161 million in revenue in 2020 and has more than 42 million active monthly users.
5. Personalize the mobile customer experience
As more businesses turn to mobile and customers receive more notifications on their devices, personalization will help you stand out. In fact, our research shows that 76 percent of consumers expect personalization. They want companies to take the information they have about them and use it to make their experience better—whether that means using their preferred method of engagement or offering recommendations based on their purchase history.
“Relevance is key,” Lalonde says. “You’re going to get more people to engage with you if you’re sending them information that is tailored to the experience that they’re trying to get out of the app.”
Using customer data and analytics, you can offer personalization based on location, previous shopping habits, and more. It’s all about directly engaging with consumers in a way they’ll find more friendly and familiar.
“It’s just being more intelligent about the way you’re engaging with your customers,” Lalonde adds. “You’re not just sending irrelevant notifications akin to spam and hoping that they will lead customers to engage with a contextless message and go into your app.”
For example, sending a customer a push notification for a 20-percent discount is great. But that customer will find the push notification even more enticing if it’s for 20 percent off the sweater they were eyeing online last week.
Be where your customers are
Now more than ever, companies need to put their customers at the center of everything they do—and that means showing up where they want to communicate with you and buy your products. When you deliver a great mobile experience, you’re boosting your customer experience, too. And a happier customer means a happier bottom line.