Retail branded apps, done right, can help fix our ailing high streets

| October 1, 2018 | By

With so many retail chains now fighting for their very survival, Yoyo CEO Michael Rolph says the proof is already out there on how retail branded apps, with customer experience at their core, can help drive footfall and fend off the “high street apocalypse”.

Experience-led retail branded apps can win the battle for the high street

Last week, I had the pleasure to join a panel at this year’s Coffee Shop Innovation Expo. Sitting alongside Mike Kelly, CEO of Curl, we discussed how retailers can drive customer loyalty through technology.

It was a great talk and it’s fair to say opinions differed a bit – especially when we got onto the value of open networks (Mike’s view – and partly my view to be fair) and why brands still want retail branded apps (firmly my view).

Near the end, I had about about two minutes to make the case for why retail branded, done right, apps are working. Here’s what I said:

As consumers, our first instinct would be to say we don’t really want multiple retail apps on our smartphones. Being able to one day download a single app that could deliver a full in-store customer experience from all retailers is perhaps the nirvana from a user’s perspective.

But when you look at the awesome success of what brands like Starbucks and Caffè Nero are achieving, you quickly realise how so, so wrong it would be to dismiss the value of retail branded apps.

Starbucks, for instance, is delivering an app experience that now processes a massive 40% of transactions – a retail specific app, by the way, that is being used by more people than the virtually ubiquitous Apple Pay network in the US.

This alone should lead you to conclude that retail branded apps, done right, work!

Caffè Nero is another case-in-point – especially in terms of the data insight that can be extracted and utilised.

Within just 12 months of launching, Caffè Nero’s Yoyo-powered app had been downloaded by more than 350,000 users, processed 3.6 million transactions, took nearly 10% share of checkout, and most importantly, had a 30-day retention rate of 80% – users are loving the experience!

The app has also opened up a whole new world of customer data insight and measurement for Caffè Nero’s in-store marketing activity.

For instance, just one of Caffè Nero recent app-led loyalty bonus stamp campaigns generated a 17% increase in revenue, a 20% uplift in customers and a 20% increase in outlet visits.

A brilliant example of how successful an app-led marketing campaign can be for a high street chain.

But more importantly, it highlights the fact that brands with retailer apps can now instantly measure the real-time effectiveness of their in-store marketing campaigns.

Marcus Denison-Smith, head of marketing at Caffè Nero, has told us: “Before the Caffè Nero app, all we could really track was how frequently customers were coming in. We knew nothing else about them.

“We can now run and measure promotions that support a certain store, a certain segment of customers, or a certain product.”

During our debate, Mike Kelly and I agreed that digital experiences have the ability to produce incredible outcomes for retailers in what is a “pretty savage market at the moment”, as Mike pointed out.

But from his point of view, if retailers want to see a real return on investment, it would be better to reduce costs by not having to have a retail branded app and focus more on the experience – the things that customers most care about.

And it’s fair to say that open networks are growing and becoming more successful, especially in the catering sector. The Yoyo app is accepted at more than half the universities and student unions in the UK, as well as hundreds of workplace canteens across the country.

Open networks also pose a great opportunity for independent and smaller retailers when it comes to access to new audiences.

But with the market as it is today, retailers with 20, 30 or 40+ outlets will always want to deliver a fully branded customer experience. That’s just reality – why wouldn’t they?

In terms of ROI, Mike is right that companies like both of ours, which deliver enhanced customer experiences for retailers, need to focus on driving down the cost of adoption for retailers.

We’re currently working with a new coffee chain in the UK, which will launch with around 40 outlets – and the cost for them to get an app to market has been negligible.

How? Because our ready-built platform enables us to create a beautiful, branded app, which combines payment with a huge choice of features and loyalty programme options that is right for that retailer.

Combine this with the customer data insight, audience segmentation and hyper-targeted marketing campaigns and messaging that comes out of an app, it’s pretty obvious that the vast majority will want to see all this activity sit firmly under their own brand. It will be some time, in my view, before this changes.

If you’d like to find out how Yoyo can create the most powerful retail branded app experience for you, drop me an email at