Should your business offer a retail mobile app? Consider this: The average U.S. consumer opens a mobile retail application 22 times a month, totaling 60 billion sessions in 2018.
Mobile retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. are projected to reach $339.03 billion in 2020. A survey by Aruba and Hewlett Packard Enterprise found that 86% of the respondents use a retail app and 59% do so up to 5 times a week.
Today, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with searching for products and making purchases on their mobile devices. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar, click-and-mortar or pure-play online retailer, the rise of mobile retail store apps is a trend you can’t afford to ignore.
A retail app is an application that consumers install on their mobile devices to facilitate their in-store and digital shopping experiences. It allows users to:
Compared with a mobile website, a retail app is often faster and allows for more personalization. You also can leverage mobile-specific features (e.g., cameras, contact list, GPS, phone, accelerometer and compass) to add interactivity and enhance the user experience.
A mobile app provides retailers the opportunities to improve the shopping experience, reduce friction in the purchasing process and interact with customers creatively. Here’s how a mobile retail app can benefit your business:
Having a mobile retail application can help you attract and retain more customers. Here’s how an app can help generate more sales:
On average, Americans check their phones once every 12 minutes. Online publisher Smart Insights, citing data from Yahoo’s Flurry analytics, reports that U.S. consumers spend 90% of the time on their mobile devices interacting with apps. In addition, a survey by The Manifest found that 21% of millennials open an app more than 50 times a day.
Having your app available in the app store helps increase exposure to potential customers and gives you the opportunity to build brand awareness as consumers download the app, interact with your content and see your notifications.
Your mobile app can do more than support e-commerce and process transactions. It can help you stay top of mind and cultivate relationships with your audience by sharing valuable content or offering useful tools.
You also can use geofencing technology to deliver location-specific information or offers while combining personalization technologies with push notifications to make sure the right message reaches the right people at the right time.
About 57% of respondents in the Aruba-Hewlett Packard Enterprise study prefer to find information using a mobile app instead of interacting with a sales associate. Meanwhile, a chat or messaging feature on a retail app allows you to provide real-time customer support and increase customer satisfaction.
You also can use mobile-specific features such as auto-fill, location services and tap-to-call to streamline the user experience and reduce friction in the buying process to increase conversion rates.
A mobile retail app is a great platform for providing post-sale support to help improve customer communication and customer satisfaction so you can increase retention rates.
You can leverage user data such as browsing patterns, purchasing history, preferences, location and demographic information to deliver a personalized shopping experience that’ll help increase sales.
It’s often less costly to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. Indeed, loyal customers are more likely to buy from you again and tend to spend more. A loyalty program is effective for customer retention and a retail mobile app can help you engage members.
For example, customers can track their rewards, get notified about upcoming deals and redeem their rewards right inside the app for a seamless experience that’ll entice them to stick with your brand.
A mobile retail app can help facilitate customers’ in-store experience and increase sales. For example, the Walmart.com app allows users to check a product’s in-store availability, locate an item within a store, navigate the store, view current pricing and place orders for pick-up.
In addition, you can use beacon technology to send special promotions to shoppers nearby and drive foot traffic to your store. You also can combine digital content with in-store offers to deliver a multichannel experience that’ll increase engagement.
Customers are more likely to make a purchase and shop more frequently if you make it easy for them to pay with their preferred payment methods. A retail app allows you to streamline the transaction process while offering more payment options to your customers.
With mobile payment integration, customers can enter credit card information into the app and pay for products in a store using their smartphones. You can also offer mobile payment options such as payment by text, direct mobile billing, online wallets, Quick Response (QR) code payment, contactless near-field communication, cloud-based mobile payment and audio signal mobile payment to meet customer needs.
You can collect and analyze a large amount of customer information from your retail mobile app to make data-driven decisions in real-time. This helps you respond effectively to fast-changing customer demands and market trends.
Such data can help you gain insights into the not-so-obvious needs of customers based on how they interact with your content by using event-based analytics tools that analyze user behaviors. You can then deliver a highly personalized shopping experience that’ll increase conversion rates.
Here are some key steps for developing a mobile retail app to ensure that it meets your customer demands while achieving your business objectives:
While the functionalities and user experience of your mobile app should be determined by your customer needs and business objectives, here are some common features to consider:
Include a product finder to make it easy for users to find the items they want in your online catalog. Use filters for attributes such as colors, size, price range, categories, etc., to further streamline the shopping experience. You can also include a camera-based search feature so users can use their phone cameras to find items that visually match what they’re looking for.
For example, Asos’ iOS app allows users to take a photo of a garment with their phones and the app will show available products similar to the item in the brand’s online store.
A QR code scanner allows your staff and customers to look up product information using their smartphone cameras without typing in the item number or product name. Also, employees can use this feature to scan coupons and streamline the checkout process while customers can use it to submit reviews for specific products.
This allows you to keep customers up-to-date with the latest specials, promotions, news and personalized content. These notifications can be interactive, so users can take action right within the app to increase engagement. You can use this feature to connect with customers, identify their preferences and deliver the most relevant offers based on their responses.
Using beacon technology, you can deliver the most relevant content or offer in the right place and at the right time based on each customer’s current location. The app also can greet shoppers when they enter your store and show product recommendations based on their previous purchases. In addition, some retailers are using this technology to offer in-store games to engage with customers.
TGI Friday’s mobile app can send a push notification to customers who are within a certain distance of its restaurants, offering a promotion on their favorite dishes to entice these customers to make a visit.
People trust user-generated content and recommendations from their friends. By encouraging customers to share their positive experience with your brand on social media, you can attract more shoppers to your store or app. Tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing by integrating your retail app with various social media platforms so users can seamlessly share your products and content.
Consumers are increasingly becoming comfortable with making transactions via mobile apps. Your app should allow users to pay using a variety of popular payment options. Consider integrating with platforms such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Android Pay to make it easy for customers to buy from you.
To streamline the buying experience and increase conversion rates, you should allow mobile users to complete transactions with a minimum amount of information and the fewest steps possible. Allow returning customers to store their information, such as shipping address, so they can check out more quickly and easily simply by verifying their identities on their devices.
Consumers want the ability to manage their orders, preferences and other account information anytime and from anywhere. The profile feature on a retail mobile app should allow customers to save personal information, view and reorder past purchases, adjust custom settings, apply discount codes and participate in your loyalty program.
Social proof has a large impact on consumer purchasing decisions and you can increase conversion rates by making it easy for happy customers to post reviews about your products through the mobile app.
For instance, Sephora’s mobile app offers customers the ability to look up product reviews right from their smartphones as they shop in a store. Users also can access beauty tips and virtual products try-on to enhance their offline shopping experience.
An offline app can reduce data storage, making it more attractive for some consumers while improving overall user experience and app performance. Such an app can store information for use offline so customers can continue interacting with your content even if they lose their network connection.
This technology allows shoppers to see your products in context to facilitate the decision-making process, increase conversion rates and lower return rates.
For example, Ikea Place enables users to place virtual copies of the brand’s furniture in the home space and move them around to see them in context. The app also makes it easy to purchase the items right away.
While some retailers use an in-house team for retail app development, many businesses work with third-party app developers who have the specific expertise and experience to design and launch their apps.
To create an app with extensive functionalities that deliver a full brand experience, your best bet is to hire an external agency that can effectively orchestrate all the moving parts — including market research, strategy, design, development, testing and maintenance.
On the other hand, if you have the bandwidth to manage the process, using an in-house developer gives you more flexibility to create custom solutions and allows you to get immediate support whenever you need it. Those who are starting out and have a limited budget may want to try the do-it-yourself route. There are many affordable tools you can use to build an app with basic functionalities so you can get started without a large upfront investment.
Whether you choose to build a retail app in-house or outsource the project, you should have a good understanding of the cost associated with developing, launching and maintaining a retail app to avoid unpleasant surprises. Here are some considerations:
With more consumers becoming inseparable from their mobile devices, retail apps have become a crucial component in the marketing toolbox of many retailers. The goal is to help create a seamless omnichannel brand experience. These apps allow businesses to deliver the right message in the right place and at the right time so they can engage their customers and stay top of mind.
To build an effective mobile retail app, you need marketing expertise, consumer insights and technical know-how so you can deliver an outstanding customer experience and optimize your return on investment.