Brands employ many different tactics and marketing initiatives to drive customer loyalty. They build robust loyalty and rewards programs, take great care in keeping consumers engaged across multiple touchpoints, promote sales and offers, and work to customize each customer’s experience. This effort is all done in the name of fostering loyalty, brand advocacy, and, ultimately, more purchases.

But, according to new research that WillowTree is releasing today, the surprise hero of customer loyalty may be… (insert drum roll here)… the brand app.

We set out to find what consumers look for when they’re downloading brand apps (the specific mobile apps designed to extend the brand experience beyond a company’s core product or offering) and what keeps consumers coming back to them again and again.

We surveyed over 1,000 consumers earlier this spring and we’re now releasing those results in a new report, The Brand App Experience: Value, Purpose, and Brand Loyalty.

Customer expectations for brand apps

Through the survey, we found that consumers have high expectations for value and functionality from brand apps:

  • 65% expect promotions and exclusive deals
  • 59% expect loyalty programs
  • 50% expect the ability to make purchases within the app
  • 50% expect additional products or services
  • 35% expect a brand app to improve or customize their other brand experiences

These consumer expectations create a roadmap for brands who are tasked with standing out among an estimated five million available apps. Because, just as clearly as consumers defined the experience they want, they also shared the implications of meeting or, even more importantly, not meeting their expectations.

When asked about experiences with brand apps, respondents with positive experiences said they were more likely to make purchases, sign up for loyalty programs, use the app regularly, and increase their loyalty to the brand. This finding is especially true of millennials, with 51 percent saying they’d be more likely to make purchases after a positive brand app experience, compared to only 35 percent of Boomers who had the same response.

Bad app experiences cost big

Consumers acknowledging a negative experience said they would make fewer purchases, would not recommend the brand to others, and said they became less loyal to the brand. Others stated they would delete the app altogether.

Exclusivity, loyalty, and convenience

The brand app is much more than just another marketing channel—it is the cornerstone of a brand’s relationship with its customers. Our relationships to apps are deeply personal in nature, and an app’s quality and usefulness act as indicators of how much a brand cares about us.

The brand app can no longer be a check-box item, especially in an extremely saturated market. This research definitively shows that consumers expect brand apps to drive their loyalty, and that poor apps have a direct negative impact on a brand’s perception as a whole. Exclusivity, loyalty programs and convenience (e.g payments) are some of the features users clearly expect.

Read the full report here.

If you’d like to talk more about this, reach out!