Take a look at your phone’s home screen. There’s a strong chance that at least one of the apps you’re looking at exists primarily to help you buy things.

If you’re a loyalty card customer it’s likely you have the corresponding retailers’ app installed, like Boots or Tesco. If you fall into the ‘millennial’ category then you probably have something like Etsy or Deliveroo; Net a Porter for the fashionistas; Ebay for the bargain-hunters. Nowadays, when it comes to retail, the old adage ‘there’s an app for that’ rings truer than ever.

As consumers, we’re becoming increasingly fond of making purchases through mobile apps. In the first half of 2016, according to Criteo’s latest Mobile Commerce Report, retailers with a sophisticated mobile app presence saw up to 54% of their mobile transactions generated in-app: an increase from 47% in 2015.

As well as being three times more likely to buy something through a mobile app than mobile web, we also spend more this way: this quarter saw mobile apps generate higher order values than desktop and mobile web, with an average of $127 spent in-app versus $100 on desktop and $91 on mobile web.

To stay in step with increasing consumer demand, top retailers are building savvy, intuitive and useful shopping apps that give consumers a seamless way to buy on mobile devices. But, of course, rolling out a successful mobile commerce app isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, with retailers facing two major obstacles to driving in-app sales: usability, and adoption.

1. Usability

It might sound obvious, but the most successful mobile apps are the ones that prioritise user experience above all else. People need to enjoy using the app if they’re going to keep coming back to it.

Capabilities like home screen presence, instant loading, offline content, push notifications, personalisation and access to native functionality make the mobile shopping experience richer and more immersive for consumers.

Brands that can deliver this feature-rich environment and create a unified, consistent and relevant experience for shoppers regardless of device will succeed in driving retention and conversion rates.

2. Adoption

The explosive growth in mobile app usage has created a hugely competitive marketplace, with a staggering 2.2 million apps now in leading app stores. In this environment, retailers face a difficult challenge as they battle their market competitors as well as other apps for user attention.

As a retailer, it’s no use having a fantastic mobile app if people aren’t downloading and using it. But with so many apps available to consumers now, how do retailers ensure that once their app makes it onto phones it doesn’t become unused and forgotten?

App advertising is one route that retailers are exploring to bring users back to an app to browse and purchase. Inspiring interaction along the entire path to purchase with relevant, personalised content, app advertising targets shoppers with mobile ads showcasing products relevant to their interests and recent browsing activity.

With this approach, we’ve found that once engaged, shoppers are 30% more likely return and shop within the app – without further encouragement.

Mobile apps do require significant investment to get right, and indeed to make it onto consumer’s smartphone screens at all. But, as our research attests, not only do consumers want to buy through mobile apps, they’re willing to spend more than they do through other channels.

This means that in the world of mobile commerce, apps are rapidly moving from being a ‘nice to have’ to business-critical. Retailers need to move quickly, or risk losing out.

 

By Gregory Gazagne, executive vice president EMEA at Criteo

 

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