Filip Eldic, co-founder of BlueDot Innovation, recently told me that he believes customer engagement is shifting from a model where engaging with customers ‘around the moment of truth’ was good enough, to one where this is no longer acceptable. Great brands are now focusing on engaging customers ‘at the moment of truth’, he believes. And he’s absolutely correct.

“The difference between these is incredibly important as it changes the customer experience and perception from irrelevant spam to useful and meaningful service and value, as well as significantly increasing the ROI any brand will see from their customer engagement effort,” Filip said.

What does this mean in terms of app development for customer engagement? Most businesses know it is a good idea to segment their customers into groups for the purposes of email or other marketing communications. But consider how much further our client Pizza Hut recently took this idea – launching an app that went so far beyond segmentation that it created an entirely new realm of customer engagement.

What if you could boost sales 28%?

Pizza Hut developed a loyalty app and, by eliminating paper-based coupons, motivated more than 350,000 customers to download and use the app. They are now able to use the app to not only get to know their customers as individuals, but to interact with those individuals.

For example, they pushed a message to mothers in a specific geographic area where it was raining, suggesting ordering dinner without going out in the rain to pick it up. This caused a huge uplift in sales – in fact, since launching the app, sales have risen 28%.

This is a great example of relating what is happening in the world of individual customers to a solution a brand can offer that will resonate with those customers. When that happens, a marketing tool becomes a valuable addition to the customer’s life, and so does the brand.

It’s not a device, it’s an engagement tool

There are three main trends in app development right now. One is that ‘mobile’ is moving from ‘device’ to ‘systems of engagement’, where apps are providing contextual experiences based on customer behaviour. The Pizza Hut example illustrates this idea nicely.

The next is the fact that underpinning this ‘systems of engagement’ trend is brilliant innovation in precision location services. Anywhere in the world and without the need for hardware (unless you’re indoors, in which case you can set up beacons), we can set up one-inch digital tripwires so anyone with a particular app can be sent a mobile push message when they enter a particular area. Location can now be used to deliver very targeted offers.

Imagine a cricket match or some other sports event. There are masses of people present, and you can send individuals different push messages based on their location. If somebody is passing the merchandise stand on their way into the ground, they could be sent a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

The third trend is that apps are connecting people, spaces and places, and providing a very rich experience for customers, employees and brands.

This time, imagine someone checking into a hotel. As they walk through the front door you might notify the front desk of the person’s name and history with the hotel, and send another push notification to the guest telling them the name of the person at reception who will look after them. Once they are in their room, a personalised ‘Welcome’ message can provide details of the hotel facilities they might like to use. Later on, if they’re heading towards the doors to go outside and it’s raining, a message could be sent telling them where to find hotel-provided umbrellas. It's really about personalising an experience in a specific place.

The possibilities and practical uses for such technology are very exciting. There has been a fundamental shift in the development of apps for customer engagement, and those doing it well are already reaping the benefits.

To find out more about how some of Australia’s biggest brands use mobile to connect to their customers in new ways, download our e-book ‘Mobilise the Customer Journey’.