Millennials are having a party, but it seems the invitations for most teen retailers never hit their mailboxes. Perhaps that’s because such invites would’ve been issued via mobile phone.
At a time when younger generations are spending upward of 80 hours a month on their mobile devices, several apparel brands are missing out on a commerce opportunity that led to $35 billion in U.S. sales last year. Such brands have been slow to enter and innovate in the mobile sector, a sluggishness that experts say could be costing them sales, some are now scrambling for relevance among their tech-minded consumers. Some have recently added e-commerce capabilities and curated music through their mobile apps, though others haven’t gotten even that far.
The stark simplicity of the teen brand app experience is amplified when compared with shopping apps from retailers such as Target or and Sephora. Those brands have invested huge amounts in infrastructure for loyalty-rewarding coupons and virtual reality elements that are winning over consumers. Earlier this year, Sephora rolled out to its already-popular app a virtual try-on feature for lipstick.
With a growing population of mobile shoppers — 40% of consumers used their phones last year to search for what they wanted, compared with 36% in 2014, according to Accenture — there’s quite a bit at stake. And convincing a consumer, especially a notoriously fickle teen, to download an app and dedicate precious phone storage to a brand is difficult. The majority of shoppers, 73%, have two or fewer retail apps on their phones, online coupon site RetailMeNot found in a recent study.
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Teen-focused brands understand the issue, but are still playing catch-up; they’re reluctant to devote big dollars to mobile. The Aéropostale app, for example, seems to be exactly the same as the brand’s mobile site, though it, oddly, features a different logo — a bare-bones endeavor.
Abercrombie’s app offers a slightly more optimized experience, with some branded photography and an easy-to-find playlist with its own tab. American Eagle offers the most feature-rich experience. The app is more brand-immersive with photography, and also dabbles in omnichannel capabilities by providing a bar-code scanner for in-store items. Like Abercrombie, the app has its own radio station, but the button is hard to find.
Shoppers would likely need a more compelling reason to download any one of these apps — radio is nice, but it doesn’t help a brand stand out. Ideally, an app should showcase a strong brand voice with contributions from fans via social media, and also offer integrated features for brick-and-mortar shopping.
Abercrombie and American Eagle are working on such ideas. New York-based Aéropostale, which has used social and mobile messaging in the past to market its brand, declined to comment. The struggling retailer — Aéro has reported two consecutive years of losses and recently said it will lay off 13% of its corporate workforce — has made few recent updates to its three-year-old app.
This post is a light version of Adrianne Pasquarelli’s great article: Why retailers are missing out on mobile with millenials.