Should Retailers Invest in Mobile Shopping Apps?

Mobile Shopping

Mobile Shopping / Shutterstock

I don’t remember when I became a mobile shopper. Although I got my start using my phone’s mobile browser, I have since graduated to five different shopping applications.

Technology is changing the way consumers shop: according to a recent survey by Compete, the number of people using mobile devices for shopping is increasing rapidly. Almost half of people who own smartphones are becoming mobile shoppers. People don’t just shop on their phones because of the convenience of mobility; one of the survey results indicated that 74% of shoppers do mobile shopping at home. Around 30% of them do mobile shopping at work.

Perhaps the most interesting insight from this survey is that mobile applications are not as popular as expected among shoppers. Based on the latest survey results, the number of people using mobile applications is 25% percent lower than the number of mobile shoppers who use a mobile browser to shop. Based on a study by Research 2 Guidance last year, most online stores made less than 5 percent of their revenue through mobile applications.

So, is it worth it for retailers to invest in mobile applications?

The answer, from my perspective, is yes. The survey results did not completely deny the value of shopping applications. In fact, nearly 61% of mobile shoppers installed at least one shopping application on their smartphones and more than 30% of them have more than four applications. Retailer apps (such as Amazon and eBay), loyalty card organizers and coupon applications are the most popular among all shopping apps. The survey also found that mobile shoppers in age groups 18-34 and 65+ are more likely to use shopping applications.

Retailers should not give up their mobile applications but change the way they work. According to the survey results, most consumers use mobile as a pre-shopping tool to find store information, compare prices, look for coupons and review product descriptions. Not many people actually make purchases using their phone, so placing an emphasis on the information that consumers are seeking may prove to be more beneficial.

Here are some suggestions for retailers:

  • Make the application unique. Add unique features to your applications rather than just mirroring what you have on your main site. A good example would be Gilt, one of the most popular retailer applications, because they offer exclusive content and offers for their mobile app users.
  • Make sure the app is easy to use. The reasons why people use mobile apps are convenience and simplicity. List all the information the consumer needs both online and offline.
  • Add push notifications. People installed the app for a reason – adding functionality to casually remind consumers when a sale starts is a great way to boost engagement with the app.
  • Make it social. Shopping is more fun when there is a social element included. Integrating social platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr can be a great way to increase the reach of your app.
  • Link the application to in-store activities and allow more interactions. Starbucks allows consumers to pay using their app and Amazon’s mobile application lets consumers scan a product’s barcode to show the price on Amazon. Some apps even allow you to compare prices among different retailers.

With mobile traffic expected to surpass desktop in the next four years, it is pretty obvious that brands need to begin focusing on providing a unique and intuitive mobile UX in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. What suggestion would you give to them?

About He Tang:
He is the summer Marketing Intern at Compete. She is currently a rising senior of Mount Holyoke College, double majoring in Psychology and Statistics. She is passionate about digital marketing and data analysis. Connect with her on Google+ or LinkedIn.