Treating retailers like a consumer, not a distribution channel


By Paul Swaddle, Co-Founder, Pocket App.

We're all used to the idea that 'the customer is always right', when it comes to ensuring consumers are satisfied with your product – and it's a bit of wisdom has certainly carried over into the reviews-driven world of app stores. But it's worth remembering that this doesn't just apply to the end consumer.

For FMCG brands, for example, a key demographic they need to reach are the sales channels that can get their brands to those end consumers. And this demographic is made up of individuals who are as fickle as any other user – meaning you have to take the same amount of care you would with a consumer-facing app.

Vitally, retailers need an incentive to actually use your app. If there's no real benefit to them, they simply won't bother. Think about the value you're offering to sales channel users – what do they stand to gain?

This could be a direct financial incentive. This could mean free POS materials or products, but
most commonly a voucher for ordering more stock at a lower price. This is a win-win situation, as retailers get a solid reason to use the app, and the FMCG brand gets more orders of their product.

Alternatively, there are softer incentives – for example, making sure the app's functionality offers something that can't be found elsewhere. Impartial advice can be particularly valuable in this regard. If you can share research that advises retailers on pricing, stock levels or shelving, not just for your brand but the full product category, they'll have a reason to pick up the app – and likely remember your brand as an active contributor to their business.

Once you've convinced retailers that your app is worth picking up, you need to consider the user experience. Be aware that you're competing for attention as much as you would be in the app stores. These aren't necessarily users who make heavy use of apps for work flow, and so they won't be comparing the user experience to other sales apps – but the best-in-class consumer apps and games we're all familiar with.

In fact, competition might be especially strict, because of the number of brands out there who have their own apps. This leads to fragmentation, and it can be hard to convince a retailer that they need an app for every single brand they stock.

To overcome this, make sure you've taken all aspects of best practice into account for your app. Consider customising the experience based on the user and their specific needs, and incorporating dynamic information such as live pricing updates. And once the app is out the door, it's important to continue supporting the app, both to make sure it stays functional and also keeps up to date with the evolving needs, of both users and your business objectives.

It also helps if your app is flexible, and doesn't just cover a single product. We work with field sales agency McCurrach, which represents a wider number of brands. This means they can provide digital solutions to retailers without bombarding them with an endless number of apps.

"Apps can be a great solution for retailers, but it's vital to consider what the use case is, and what value you're offering," says Gordon Neil, Development Director at McCurrach. "We have looked at user experience with PocketApp to make sure we come up with a solution that retailers actively want to use, beyond launch and on an ongoing basis. Achieving that means thinking about the end user and their needs, just as you would with a consumer-facing app."

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