How a mobile app can benefit your retail business in 2019

We used to tell retailers to think beyond bricks & mortar– ‘you need to be online’ was the e-commerce mantra. Now it’s not enough to have a webstore. Retail apps are taking over.

A 2018 study by consumer finance firm Synchrony found that customers are using double the number of retail apps on their phones than they did in 2017. On average, they’re using four apps, up from two previously. Another report from Criteo says mobile sales represent the majority of total e-commerce for retailers with successful shopping apps. More than half of shoppers use a retailer’s app even when they’re in the store.

Not all of this is new. The fact that a majority of consumers use their smartphones while being on the go or browsing the aisles has been common knowledge for some time. What the most recent data suggests is that a tipping point has been reached where today’s’ shoppers are preferring apps over mobile webstores, and the majority of store visitors are complementing their brand experience with mobile.

What’s made shopping with retail apps so attractive? Perhaps people are finally happy with the experience. According to the Synchrony study, 83% of customers said they were satisfied with the experience of retail apps. Yet less than half of retail customers are happy with their mobile web experience. Retail apps are helping brands raise their game, and offer frictionless shopping experiences.

The rise in mobile app usage is great news for retailers working to build better relationships with customers. 73% of shoppers point to customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions and 65% say it has even more impact than advertising. This means retail apps are more than another tech touchpoint. In today’s competitive retail landscape they’ve become vital tools to connect shoppers with brands. Done well, they can engage both in-store and out, with personalised experiences and easy checkouts that simplify transactions.

Isn’t a mobile webstore enough?

With the development of responsive design and the vastly improved mobile web sites it generated, many assumed that the maturing mobile web experience would render apps obsolete.

But mobile apps for retail businesses have retained their appeal, even when brands follow a dual strategy of mobile webstore plus standalone app — for the simple reason that retail apps offer even greater shopping experiences.

In terms of quality, speed, and opportunity to use various capabilities of the smartphone and other systems, both native apps and progressive web apps (PWAs) are superior than the mobile web.

And that’s a win-win for consumers and retailers:

  • The conversion rate of mobile retail apps is 3x higher than the conversion rate on mobile web.  Worldwide research done by Criteo shows in-app sales grew 44% year on year from 2017 to 2018.
  • In Europe, retailers with shopping apps now generate  the majority of their mobile sales in-app.

So what is it about retail apps that makes them effective? The key factor is improved customer experience.

1. Retail apps improve the checkout process and boost conversion

Shopping cart abandonment is a big problem for e-commerce across the board but retailers do themselves harm by having poorly designed webstores, or depend on a checkout process that’s overly lengthy or clunky.

Looking at a study by UX researchers the Baymard Institute, more than a quarter of shoppers who abandon online sales do so because of a ‘too long or complicated checkout process.’

Mobile webstores, meanwhile, are vulnerable to abandonment even when the shop is well designed and the checkout process is seamless. With mobile webstores, retailers are at the mercy of browser capabilities and, crucially, internet performance at the time of purchase.

If broadband strength is at 1-2 bars when a customer is trying to make a mobile webstore purchase, many will abandon the sale out of frustration.

A native app or PWA (progressive web app) can optimise checkouts and reduce the time customers spend filling out long, complex forms by 20 percent or more. This leads to more conversions – 200 percent more vs. sales via a standard mobile webstore.

2. Retail apps strengthen customer loyalty

Customer churn is a constant preoccupation for retailers – it has to be if they are going to minimise it, win more repeat business, and maintain an edge over competitors.  With a retail app, customers return 2x faster than they do with a mobile webstore, and spend 27 per cent more per-session on average.

On a mobile retail app, customers are reminded of your brand whenever they check their phone – up to 200 times a day on current trends – and see your brand logo emblazoned on the personalized environment of their home screen. Push notifications (something mobile webshops can’t do) also promote retention and are an effective way to nudge customers that you have new products and promotions.

3. Retail apps boost the effectiveness of multi-channel marketing

The days when marketers relied solely on one online medium to drive consumer engagement are well behind us. As mobile devices become more and more personalised and the experience of using them more intimate, more brands see apps as the glue between channels like email, text, notifications, mobile adverts and social media.

Mobile apps for retail businesses are becoming a unified medium to drive broader awareness, stronger engagement, and ultimately better conversion at checkout.

A recent consumer study by CodeBreaker suggests that mobile apps are becoming a sort of nexus for multi-channel marketing, where all a brand’s efforts to promote, publicise and incentivise sales reach the customer through a single medium.

When asked their preferred way to receive retailer messages promoting sales, discounts, and coupons, fifty nine percent said they preferred text or an app notification. Just 41 percent said they preferred email.

When asked how they preferred to receive loyalty rewards, 69 per cent of survey respondents said they preferred receiving notice of loyalty rewards through an app or a link in a notification. Just 29 percent said they preferred email.

4. Retail apps help you understand customers better

The retail industry is evolving rapidly and mobile is one of the factors blurring the distinction between offline and online. To better assess the impact of these trends, more retailers are adopting a data first strategy, analyzing as much relevant information as they can to understand customer behaviour in ever greater levels of granularity.

Retail data analytics is the new normal, and mobile apps offer a key advantage in the amount of behavioural and personal data they add to the pile, helping refine data-driven decision making and even informing the tactical design of specific promotions.

Brands with access to more personalised, high-quality data, and know how to use it, are in a better position to deliver value to customers.

5. Retail apps improve customer service

Shoppers want speed and convenience in any retail interaction and that’s doubly important when they have a question or an issue with an order or product. Your more loyal customers may also want to give you feedback about their experience – potentially crucial information that you can use to improve service or flag up issues before they mushroom into something bigger.

Mobile retail apps allow shoppers to start a convenient and fast personal exchange with your brand. From chatbots to WhatsApp integration and in-app feedback forms, apps open the door to better feedback, improved problem resolution, and warmer relationships with customers who might otherwise end their purchase with a sense of grievance – impacting future sales. Mechanisms for in-app customer service can also help keep complains offline, rather than shared widely across social media.

Thinking about launching a new or improved mobile retail app?

Here at JMango360 we’ve developed and marketed over 1,000 mobile retail and ecommerce apps that help our clients improve their mobile sales and app marketing results.

If you’re considering a world-class app for your retail store, why not schedule a free strategy call with our team to find out what an app can do for your business?

Click here for more information.

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