Starbucks And Under Armour Are Winning Mobile — And Youre Likely Behind


Michael Jones, Contributor

September 2, 2015

What do  Under Armour and Starbucks have in common?  More than you think. Retailers, you might want to pay attention—these companies are winning in mobile.

Under Armour and Starbucks each have a keen eye on their core customer, both know how to build a grassroots following and, unlike many other brands, they know how to own new technology, especially in mobile, to advance their businesses. And there’s a good chance that if you’re any other retailer, you don’t. At least not fully.

Mobile’s disruptive force and influence on commerce can be overwhelming, and with good reason. This is not to say that marketing investments aren’t being made by mobile marketing teams or that other brands haven’t found success—many have. What I want to talk about is how retailers can push their mobile tactics even further.

From push notifications and in-store beacons to rich media ads and virtual experiences, the options for serving mobile content are limited only by your imagination. However, one thing is clear: For the most part, retailer apps have not seen a lot of success. Unless you’re a household name with a loyal following (think: Amazon or Target), you’re likely to invest a high portion of your budget for little return.

So if your brand’s idea of a “mobile first” approach is defined by building only a retailer-specific mobile app, then it may be time to rethink the possibilities. Let’s take a look at how Starbucks and Under Armour are winning with their mobile marketing strategy—including their apps.

Now Brewing: Mobile Domination

We’re already the Starbucks generation. The company’s reign on coffee can’t be disputed. And that’s before even considering the fact that they’re branching out to include adult beverages. However, in recent years, they’ve also proved to be a visionary in mobile marketing.

Over the last five years, the coffee retailer has set the bar for other marketers and been a prime example of the right way to approach mobile commerce. In 2013, it was reported that “10 percent of all Starbucks transactions were happening via mobile.” Now, two years later, the retail giant has seen almost double-digit growth. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has stated that 18 percent of all transactions stem from mobile.

Starbucks’ most recent mobile app feature, “Order and Pay,” is a nice way for its customers to order ahead, pick up their coffee and go about their day. This has created a loyalty loop, with its mobile app at the core of the experience. The coffee giant has found a way to utilize its app so it complements other in-store efforts and drives revenue. This is just one example of the brand finding new uses for technology. Starbucks has demonstrated that it’s not afraid to test, learn and implement—or test, fail and move on to the next idea.

What about retailers that don’t quite have the same cult following? Here are a couple of additional lessons you can learn from Starbucks’ mobile approach:

  • Train in-store staff effectively. Your in-store employees are your best advocates for creating a seamless experience. They’re on the front lines bridging the gap between promotions found on the smartphone and purchases made at the counter. Invest in them to make mobile work.
  • Meet your audience in the moment. Implement location-based services to offer information, such as hours for nearby stores. Think beyond traditional mobile website features with services like free Wi-Fi or by using beacons to reach in-store customers with deals and brand news.
  • Surprise and delight. There is nothing quite like getting an unexpected free gift or coffee when you least expect it

Reach Shoppers Beyond the Checkout Line

While Starbucks may have been one of the first to think beyond their stores to devise a winning mobile plan, there’s still plenty of room for other retailers to innovate. Enter Under Armour.

Earlier this year, Under Armour made headlines for its foray into digital acquisitions. Rather than focusing on building a mobile strategy directly related to its traditional apparel lines, the brand sought to expand its customer reach by building a fitness empire worthy of notice (beyond the loyal teens and kids that already hold the brand in high esteem).

Under Armour wasn’t interested in following mobile retail trends—it wanted to create them. So how did it do that? By thinking like a tech company: making acquisitions that extended the brand’s reach by offering its demographic a more complete health and fitness experience.

Aptly named Connected Fitness, the latest brand team at the retailer is focused on building the largest digital health and fitness community. With apps such as MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, two of Apple iTunes’ leading health and fitness apps, Under Armour is well on the way to not only “protecting their house” but also building a bigger, more dominant one.

Through one of the brand’s four fitness apps, Under Armour is getting more than 100,000 new users per day, according to Kevin Plank, founder and CEO. “We have incredible scale,” he told a business audience in June. Because of this, the brand hopes that the audiences using these apps will drive more sales of apparel and athletic gear, both online and in-store.

Additionally, by investing in other brand partners that already own a large share of the fitness community, Under Armour is able to borrow mobile moments and gain more access to data directly tied to its target shopper audience.

As we wade through one of the biggest media shifts in history, it’s important for brands to remember who they are and what they do best. Under Armour has found success by keeping its focus and making sound business investments in the mobile space. Other retailers can make similar strides by taking a few notes from the Under Armour playbook:

  • Incorporate the latest to be the greatest. Retailers can’t do it all, and sometimes, someone else is doing it better. Take advantage of digital platform partners and new technology that may be able to offer you a unique perspective on your intended audience. If you have the capital to make it happen, look at acquisition targets to build your offerings.
  • Get creative. Maintaining the attention of your audience is difficult. Instead of repurposing content from other channels for mobile, offer them new content that they won’t be able to turn away from.
  • Meet your audience in the moment. Yes, this is a repeat from earlier and with reason. You must engage your customers in the moments where they should be thinking about your brand. Continual brand awareness, for the win.

No longer the new kid on the block, mobile has definitely surged among shoppers. Starbucks and Under Armour are just two of the brands that have pushed themselves to test new waters. Sure, they’ve had some ideas that failed, but they’ve seen more success because of those failures. Both brands continue to make mobile a priority and their successes can be measured by the amount of customers who open their wallets daily.

One thing is certain. The message from consumers is loud and clear: Get on board with the full mobile experience or get out of the way.

This article was written by Michael Jones from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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