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Marketers use mobile crowdsourcing to supercharge apps

Brands such as 7-Eleven are increasingly looking to leverage in-application reviews and feedback as a way to create stronger consumer-focused apps in the next iteration of their mobile strategies.

Although the idea of in-app reviews and feedback is not new to mobile, marketers seem to be throwing more weight behind the features as they look to build out next-generation mobile strategies. 7-Eleven for example has been playing up a feature within its app called Idea Hub where consumers can submit comments to improve the app.

?We decided to take what other retailers have done to crowdsource ideas on the Web and go mobile first,? said Margaret Chabris, spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, Dallas.

?Although the feature is somewhat buried in the app, we have had strong participation,? she said.

?The top ideas in the Idea Hub are either in the works or being looked at for feasibility. Soon Idea Hub will give two-way feedback on the status of ideas.?

Mobile convenience
Marketers are increasingly looking for ways to improve their apps to help solve problems for consumers.

One of the most effective ways in doing this is to leverage real-time feedback within apps to test which features work and do not work.

7-Eleven?s feedback section is set up so that consumers can quickly enter their ideas on the fly. An idea submission is limited to 500 characters and can be filtered down to submit ideas for stores, coupons and events.

For example, some of the Idea Hub suggestions for coupons within 7-Eleven?s app ask for specific coupons on items while other users rate their experience using mobile coupons in-store.

Consumers can also vote on others? submissions via the app, which likely helps 7-Eleven evaluate which requests are most wanted by consumers.

With the addition of the two-way feedback, 7-Eleven will likely be able to get an even better read on what consumers are looking for because the company will be able to create a dialogue with its consumers.

Building brand favorability
7-Eleven is not the only brand leveraging in-app user feedback to improve the user experience.

Sephora, Best Buy, CVS/pharmacy, Zappos, Sears and Kohl?s are only a handful of other brands that use in-app feedbox boxes and surveys to better understand how consumers use their mobile apps.

According to Michael Griffith, director of strategy and creative at Bottle Rocket Apps, Dallas, in-app feedback also drills brand favorability into a consumer?s mind, which can result in repeat app usage.

?Marketers are learning that one-to-one communication can be far more authentic and have a much greater impact than one to many communications,? he said.

?When brands directly respond to their consumers, the consumers are excited to know that their opinions are being heard, and they feel like their input is taken seriously. This usually leads to the consumer being excited to tell the story to their friends.?

In-app reviews alleviate some of the challenges that marketers have around privacy and apps because the information is all user-submitted and therefore avoids questionable tracking issues that some gaming apps are allegedly using, per a recent report from the Center for Digital Democracy (see story).

Mobile testing
Marketers can use A/B testing within the app feedback section to tweak different information that marketers want to pull out of their apps.

?In addition to having a robust in-app feedback strategy, marketers should also use A/B testing to leverage all the indirect feedback that users are providing to them,? said Momchil Kyurkchiev, CEO and cofounder of Leanplum, San Francisco.

?On the Web, marketers use A/B testing to optimize engagement and conversions, and now they can use this powerful technique to optimize native mobile apps,? he said.

In-app reviews are also a way for marketers to expand on sets of data that they are already getting from their app analytics.

For example, a retailer may see from data that an app is not triggering significant amounts of commerce. However, an app review might show that consumers are actually looking for reviews or in-store information within the app that eventually converts into a sale later in the purchasing funnel.

Additionally, in-app feedback can help retailers understand why consumers are falling out of the commerce funnel.

Feedback is also increasingly being used to drive app retention for consumers who may only be somewhat engaged with a mobile app, according to Robi Ganguly, CEO/cofounder of Apptentive, Seattle, WA.

?Increasingly, the core insight [that] teams are having is that there is a bell curve around engagement and monetization,? he said.

?Companies are engaging with more of their customer base in order to move the middle of the bell curve ? the folks who are somewhat engaged and not responsible for most of the commerce and revenue in the app ? up to the right hand side of the curve, where they're more heavily engaged and driving revenue for the company.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York