In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
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"A trick of the trade is upgrades," says Derek Bronston, senior director of technology and development at The Conspiracy, a web, mobile and social design firm. "You can do periodic app upgrades where you give your users new content or features. You need to give the user more stuff, otherwise they have no reason to come back."
This month, ShopNBC.com will be offering an upgrade with a feature that seems certain to grab the attention of mobile shoppers, a feature only a handful of apps offer: live television. The merchant will enable customers to watch ShopNBC programs anywhere, anytime.
"Having the live stream is absolutely about getting our customers to regularly use the app," Steinberg says. "Having that available on all devices will be consistent with our business model. Customers like to see a product live, see a show host touch it, get a perspective on size. And on the Internet you can get that through a live stream along with other information that can help make a customer more comfortable about making a purchase."
Combining in the app live television with all the additional product information that can be found on the Internet provides the best of both worlds and a powerful reason for customers to keep coming back to the app, Steinberg says.
More retailers like ShopNBC.com have begun introducing new features and functions designed to be useful as well as cool and to encourage routine app usage. For example, Buy.com Inc. has incorporated bar code scanning and voice recognition, and Tommy Hilfiger and eBay Inc. have debuted augmented reality, where customers can use their smartphone cameras to change static or live imagery in inventive new ways.
These retailers understand that customers have great expectations of apps, and if customers' expectations are not met, they won't use the app. These merchants also know that they must use a full court press to promote their apps to get as many smartphone-owning customers on board as possible. Promotion and functionality are key to the success of a mobile app—without them, a retailer's mobile investment may go down the drain.