By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
The invention of the mobile app opened a whole new world of possibility for retailers, who are now able to bring elements of the customer experience right to the palm of a consumer's hand. Some retailers adapted the technology immediately, and integrated digital apps into their loyalty programs, or added the ability to access store information and request services on the apps. Digital apps are becoming increasingly adopted by retailers for loyalty programs because they're easier to keep up than the traditional plastic wallet cards, and can be used to pay as well. Four retailers have joined the club of retail apps, enabling their customers to access the retailer's respective services a bit easier, with one retailer planning on loyalty program integration.
Caribou Coffee's biggest competitor, Starbucks, launched an app several years ago, and the need for Caribou to follow suit has been apparent for quite some time. Now Caribou Coffee's customers can enjoy mobile app and access the Caribou Perks loyalty program. The press release for the app states “the app surprises guests with playful and personalized Perks based on guest preferences and behaviors.” With the mobile pay feature, Caribou Perks members will be able to manage their payments on the app, adding funds when needed. The app may now be downloaded for iOS and Android devices for free, with updates for the app coming later in 2015.
“The mobile app has been a long-time coming, and we're thrilled to introduce a technology solution that enhances our guests' experience,” says Michele Vig, Caribou Coffee's SVP of Marketing and Product. “We focused on providing functionality that matters to our guests like mobile pay and perks account management, and added fun elements to surprise and delight.”
Taco Bell customers will also soon be able to enjoy perks and convenience on the Mexican fast food retailer's app according to recent reports. Taco Bell is planning to launch a loyalty program, details of which are unavailable. The retailer has denied the program will be named “Taco Baller,” a trademark they recently filed for earlier this month. Once available, the loyalty program will be integrated into Taco Bell's existing mobile app. The Taco Bell app has been downloaded over 2 million times since launch last year, and lets users browse the restaurant's menu, customize an order, and pay using gift card, debit card, or credit card, then pick up their order at any time.
Details on the program's features are limited. However, speaking to Bloomberg Business, Tressie Lieberman, senior director of digital platforms and social engagement, gave a hint that the focus would be on engagement, rather just a digital “punch card.” “We’re thinking of our experience as more of a game and less your traditional punch card,” she says. Lieberman also indicated that the app may allow for catering and food delivery; Taco Bell testing of catering service is currently underway in Houston, Bloomsberg Business noted.
Haircare retailer Supercuts has introduced an app this month and has planned an expansive campaign to educate customers on the benefits of the new digital experience. The new app for iOS and Android devices will let customers take charge of their haircut, with options for check-in online, selecting an arrival time, choosing a stylist and more. The app also lets Supercut customers add up to five friends or family members to the check-in, according to details in the retailer's press release.
“In research, our guests told us that in addition to a quality haircut, offering a hot towel refresher and online check-in capabilities would make their Supercuts experience even better. Since launching the new guest experience, we've been hearing from guests across the country who appreciate the enhancements,” says Heather Passe, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Regis Corporation, the parent company of Supercuts. Supercuts also offers a redesigned website with the same features as the app, with both channels offering personalized experiences.
Apparel retailers such as Macy's and Neiman Marcus have offered apps to make shopping for goods easier, and Foot Locker has now followed suit this month. The retailer, known for its extensive sneaker offerings, is giving shoe aficionados a new app, Shoemoji. The Shoemoji app is available for iOS and Android devices now, and combines the traditional offerings of retailer apps with the popular mini-graphics known as emojis. Users can use the app's shoemojis (a variety of emoji icons of sneakers) to send messages to friends and post them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The app also includes a release calendar so shoe fans can keep up with the newest hot sneakers, and a launch locator will let users know which Foot Locker has the new releases in stock. The release calendar integrates with the smartphone user's existing calendar apps, to make it easy to remember when and where they'll find their desired footwear. Shoemoji also lets customers browse and shop Foot Locker's online store, and manage their VIP loyalty program membership.
“We are very excited to introduce our first smartphone application," says Stacy Cunningham, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Foot Locker. "We know how important phones are in our customers' lives and we always want to offer them a premium experience with Foot Locker wherever they may be. We believe that the Foot Locker App, along with the introduction of Shoemoji, is another great way for us to provide that experience.”
Where once the website was the pinnacle of bringing easily accessible services to the consumer, now digital apps have taken up the charge, becoming integral as more smartphone owners use their devices in multiple facets of their lives, including payment and loyalty programs. For retailers, they offer a way to measure consumer engagement, personalize experiences, and keep in constant contact with customers. The customers of Taco Bell, Supercuts, Foot Locker and Caribou Coffee will likely embrace the newly-offered apps for convenience and time.