M-commerce is growing three times as fast as other e-commerce methods. That’s undeniably exciting for retailers who already have a winning formula, but worrying for those who are yet to develop their m-commerce offering.
One-third of online shoppers now only use mobile devices to do their online shopping according to comScore. Screen sizes are now larger than they once were, and smart phones are now the norm; it is not difficult to see why analysts predict even more rapid growth given that, in 2013 as tablets outsold mobile PCs (laptops, notebooks) for the first time.
As a result of the growth of m-commerce, app stores have become more relevant for consumers looking to make purchases or discover brands and products. With this in mind, it is increasingly important for retailers to master the art of app store optimization, in addition to the intricacies of search engine optimization. Ranking highly in app stores requires a combination of clever key word strategies and visual appeal; together with good content and ease of use that delivers respectable reviews.
The advantages of a retail app
There are three main advantages of app stores for retailers. Firstly, rather than building an expensive e-commerce engine from scratch, the logistics of inputting card details in return for receiving the product are already robust and work seamlessly within the app stores. Building this functionality from scratch on an independent site can be costly and time-consuming. In addition to this, prospective customers can make their purchase in seconds; often just at the click of a button – which means less time for hesitation and fewer abandoned shopping carts.
The second advantage in this respect is marketing angle. On one hand, the app stores are extremely competitive with only a small fraction of apps ever making it big. On the other hand, there are apps which are easily discovered and rise to the heights of popularity much faster than sites do outside of the stores. This is often to do with the category they sit in, or the way a certain promotion propels particular apps to the top of the app charts listing. These apps might not have stood a chance as stand alone e-commerce sites Alongside this, the relative infancy of app stores means there’s big room for newcomers in any space to make a name for themselves.
Groupon and Amazon Mobile are examples of retailers making the most of the app store for promotion. Cumulatively they have been rated nearly a million times. App store ratings only add to a retailers perceived credibility. A UK department store, Debenhams launched Android and Nokia apps after its iPhone app achieved 360,000 downloads and achieved sales of nearly £1m within five months of launch. Again, this illustrates how retail apps can propel a brand to a core position.
Finally, customers without data connection can access content and merchandise from an app interface and continue to browse, say, catalogs and other material. Whereas a mobile website can be impossible to access, a number of tasks are often possible from within an app.
The cost of retail apps
Annual fees for app stores are relatively inexpensive. Microsoft and Apple charge an annual developer fee of $99, Google charges $25. However, any well thought-through app strategy needs designers, developers and a marketing team on-board.
Each mobile platform (Apple iOS, Google Android, etc.) is programmed with a separate programming platform and language. This means that each additional platform requires an additional investment when programming in the mobile operating systems native language. Working with a company like YUDU, eases some of the cost as we enable retailers to create cross-platform apps.
However, even then an app is not a one-time shot where you develop a product and leave it to generate revenue. The process involves continually testing assumptions, iterations and adding new features. Costs in year one1 are just the starting point.
What should retailers be doing on the app store?
Finally, we’d like to consider What should retailers be doing on the app store?’ Considering the potential for discovery which can’t be found so easily on the web, in our opinion all retailers should have a presence.
However, rather than putting all ones eggs in one basket; clever retailers are using their apps for discoverability, to establish some sort of virtual “real estate” on an emerging form of search amongst consumers to build upon and improve.
Essentially this works as a tool to drive customers back to their store front. This enables retailers to deliver direct transactions without loss of commission; and also to maintain customer data. If Apple/Google hold all customer data, then what is to happen if trends shift and app stores lose their prominence? Shoppers can be fickle. It’s wise to keep options open.
YUDU are a provider of retail and catalog apps which can fully integrate with your existing e-commerce site. Our SmartCat technology allows you to automatically link each product within the app to its equivalent on your website, create interactive product overlays and ultimately, drive traffic from mobile devices to your site, allowing retailers to capture m-commerce growth and establish discoverability and brand presence on all major app stores.