Business
April 10, 2018

Why your fashion brand needs a mobile app

Jakub Ziembiński
iOS Developer

A few years ago having an app was all about being ahead of competition and innovation. Now innovation has a whole lot different meaning and it started to be about not being left behind.

Future is mobile

Think about your customers. What do you know about them? One thing certain is that they own a smartphone. And they use it a lot. Probably even more than you initially thought. The average adult in the US spends 3 hours 25 minutes daily using various apps. That compares to 51 minutes on the web. Yes, we’re still talking mobile devices, not computers. And it’s not only the States! More than 80% of mobile minutes in all markets are spent on apps. The conclusion is simple. Having an app is a must. Mostly because that’s where your customers are and that’s what they expect you to deliver. And let’s be honest. No matter how great your website might be they just won’t go for it if they have competition’s mobile application. That’s the reality and you must remember — it’s not the strongest that survives. It’s the one that adapts the quickest.

Predictions for the future are clear. The mobile market is on the rise and apps will play a key role in almost every industry. Fashion included. Moreover, the time spent on mobile devices rises by 69% year-over-year. That’s a huge trend and it should not be ignored. Especially if you want your brand something more than 400 Instagram followers.

Don’t bother making another catalog-looking app

Think of any retail clothing brand. There is a fair chance that they already have an app. If you had downloaded it you would have seen that in 9 out of 10 cases they are just plain mobile catalogs. Some of them have an “order to store” option. No more than 3 let you buy things with the shipment. Do you know what comes into my mind? BORING! And trust me — boring is the last thing you want for your brand. Boring means forgot.

What is so wrong then?

Well, firstly, they are all very simple. Not like “Scandinavian minimalism” simple, but “let’s make the same app like all the others, but with our logo in it” simple. An app needs to be an integral extension of your brand and it is not only the content that matters. It’s a whole interface and experience. When the user opens your app they must feel like they just entered your store and every swipe should feel like touching your product. You may think I’m delusional, but this can really be achieved. So if you make an effort make sure not to create something that has already been done by the competition. It matters even more in the creative industry which fashion undoubtedly is.

You need some proof, don’t you?

Again, let’s take some random big retail clothing company app. You already know that there’s not too much functionality in it. But there must be some! And you know what? Even that is made correctly at best. Mostly it’s useless. I give you two case studies.

The most common scenario is when a user opens the app just to scroll through the latest collection. They liked something and they want to save it somewhere. Well… they wish they could save it somewhere. No heart/star/thumb-up button. But hey! They can always take a screenshot! Convenient. Or you can make it as cool as Mallzee. Your choice.

Another example is when they want to find some particular piece of clothing. Mostly there is no search option. Even when there is one, typing “black jeans jacket” results either in all black clothes or all jackets. One may say “Hey! It kinda works!”, but that’s not the kind of perfection you are aiming for.

Create an account

You see the point. There is a lot that can be done better. A good place to start is to let the user create an account. That way you can easily provide them with many basic functionalities — a wish-list to begin with. It also comes with other great pros. Firstly, you can gather data. What they liked, what they were looking for, and mostly who they are and where are they from. It will help you expand your brand, face users' expectations, and simply deliver better products. Secondly, thanks to the data you collected, you can finally share personalized content with your users. Not just another ad. But that’s not over. Ever heard of marketing automation? I won’t go into details here, but the valuable data you collect can help you engage clients. Tailored newsletters or geotargeted notifications are only a few ways of boosting users' engagement and with that — your sales.

Make checkout great again

If I were to guess which functionality of our random app would be the worst, the payment process wouldn’t necessarily be my first shot. I mean — come on! That’s how you sell stuff! Isn’t it the point? But many, many apps make this process horrible. And think about all those users that were to buy your product, but resigned because something went wrong. It links with the previous issue — creating an account. Thanks to that the user can choose their preferred payment methods and enter details in advance. Now you can shorten the payment process to just clicking on a product and confirming the payment. No more choosing methods! No more entering card details for the hundredth time! Fast and efficient.

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Speaking of efficiency. As a programmer, I know how complicated the search flow can be. Getting exactly what you want in a reasonable time is still a luxury, but trust me — users appreciate every bit of intelligence you add to the search engine in the app. When you type “black jeans jacket” you hope to see black jeans jackets, but most of the time don’t really expect it. Giving more attention to delivering accurate search results and letting users type complicated queries will result in a positive surprise. And that is worth more than the best-tailored ad.

Make it look like your product

Promise I’ll mention it for the last time! ALL OF THESE APPS LOOK THE SAME. “Does it mean all of these brands are making identical clothes?” users might ask themselves. It’s a dangerous question because it might lead away to something more inimitable (not always of course — depending on your brand’s clientele). The solution is quite simple — think of everything that defines your brand. Think of colors and fabrics, style and language, logo and typography, and most of all the character and the mission that the company wants to convey. All of that make guidelines that should always be obeyed. Do that and you’ll make something that stands for your brand. Something that looks and feels like your product.

What is innovation?

At the time of writing this post, it’s 2018. Lots of different fun technologies have already settled in our pockets. The latest example — augmented reality in iOS devices. Many great apps are already making great use of them — so should yours! As I mentioned before, most of your competition is limited to being a simple, boring catalog. Why not gain the upper hand and really use the power of what we look at for almost half of the day? I’ll give your few examples of how some brands used new technologies and achieved success.

Augmented Reality

That is probably the sexiest buzzword recently. Mostly thanks to Apple’s ARKit which makes making apps using AR significantly easier. If you don’t already know what that is I’m here for you! Augmented Reality is used to blend virtual objects into the real world. Snapchat’s interactive masks, named Lenses, are the simplest example. There is a number of ideas for using AR with your fashion app.

Let’s take Glasses by Warby Parker as a reference. They used iPhone X’s front camera system to measure the shape of your face and serve frame recommendations based on that measurement. It’s fast, accurate, and damn, buying glasses have never been more fun! I mean how cool is that?! They even got featured on WWDC — Apple’s annual conference — as an example of the best use of Apple’s AR technology.

Another good app that uses AR is Nike’s SNKRS. They’ve been facing quite a problem — each time Nike put a limited pair of shoes on sale it was sold out in a matter of seconds. Because of bots. To fight the unfair buyers Nike came up with the idea of making online buying more physical. Now, if you wanted to buy your dreamed shoes you had to face your smartphone’s camera to Nike’s custom QR-like code. If you happened to live in New York you could have found them in the streets. If not — QR code was also on the website. No matter where you were you needed to manually open the app and place the camera in front of the poster/monitor. Using AR here was not only cool — virtual shoe appeared in front of you when scanning the code — but also happened to block the bots from buying out all of the good stuff. Also, imagine these celebrities sharing Nike’s new sexy content on social media and the impact it creates…

You might also want to take a look at the latest example. Even the titan of clothing retail — Zara — launched their own app that uses AR.

I want to participate

Fashion was always about the statement. We buy certain brands to express our belonging to a specific community. We feel connected to people wearing similar clothes. So why not take that feeling of belonging and give people tools for expressing it? To put it simply — use the app to create a community focused on your brand. How to do that? Your marketing needs to become customer-centric. Deliver content available only to application’s users, create events, blog posts, moderate the community. Maybe take it even a step further and craft products available only to the members. Make the clients feel like they’re the part of something unique. There’s not a lot of competition doing that so it’ll put you a few steps ahead. One outstanding example, although it’s a forum, not an app, is Sephora. It’s a well-organized community of customers and professionals that can share ideas and recommendations, post photos, and participate in events.

I say money

Alright, so this has been a long road and I’ve given you a lot of reasons for getting your brand an app. I also intentionally left the last argument for the end. Money. Making apps might be expensive. Maintaining produces even greater costs. So is it worth it?

Well, you wouldn’t be reading all of this if it wasn’t for tons of examples of brands that took a risk, made an app, and achieved some great success, but there is one I want to point out.

In 2016 Misguided launched an app in a response to users demand. Primary the goal for its creators was to not create a copy of their website but to deliver something unique and innovative that will be consistent with the overall brand. Here you can find a thorough case study of this cool app. What is coming for you from this example is that the app’s revenue run-rate went from zero to £30m in just four months! And it has a 30% higher conversion rate than the mobile website.

Let’s wrap it all up

We’re all going mobile. Every industry is or will be soon, going through slow, but game-changing revolution. Making an app is not only about the future, being innovative, or thinking ahead of the game. It’s also the statement that you are ready for the challenges of tomorrow and that you want to be closer to your clients. Because they want to be closer to your brand. Give them tools for expressing themselves and they’ll pay you back with the local community. Client-oriented brands get brand-oriented communities.


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Written by
Jakub Ziembiński
iOS Developer

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