It is a long-held wisdom that mobile apps play a crucial role for retailers, as well as that they must include the features that shoppers seek.
However, there were several industry news stories on this subject in February that particularly caught our eye, on account of the mixed messages they communicated about the continued importance of mobile apps to retailers in 2017.
AI and AR both eagerly anticipated by customers
The first of those stories concerned new research that discovered a need for retailers to embrace next-generation technology – such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) – if they are to keep customers using their apps.
The study, by mobile app developer Apadmi, found that almost 30% of consumers would like to see greater innovation in mobile apps, geared towards providing a better, more personalised shopping experience. The respondents said they were more likely to download a retail app if it included technology that assisted them with their purchasing decisions, or enabled them to preview products before buying.
26% of the 2,000 shoppers polled expressed a wish for retailers to incorporate AI tools into their shopping apps, particularly if they helped to recall previous orders and recommend products and deals on the basis of past purchases.
Meanwhile, nearly a third (29%) signalled a belief in retailers investing more in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms, largely due to the ability that such features could give them to see the size of items before placing an order (33%). A quarter said that they would use AR to see how to use a product prior to purchasing it.
Many retailers no longer investing in shopping apps
However, the other story of the aforementioned two that captured our interest referred to an analysis that found – despite the above desires cited by customers – that a third (32%) of the UK’s top retailers did not have a mobile shopping app at all.
The State of Digital Commerce report, by global software provider Episerver, analysed the mobile presence of 100 top UK brands, while drawing upon research with 1,200 consumers and 100 marketing professionals. It found that almost a third of the leading retailers did not provide either an iPhone or Android mobile app to their customers.
Furthermore, two-thirds (66%) of marketing professionals had ceased to make mobile apps a part of their mobile marketing campaigns, with 56% of them instead opting for a responsive mobile presence and 80% choosing a responsive ecommerce site.
David Bowen, Head of Product of Episerver, said of the report:
“In 2017 mobile is going to play a bigger role than ever before in both marketing and retail. Our research shows that smartphones have reached near-complete adoption in the UK, with ownership of tablet devices also now pushing 70%. Yet while mobile commerce is going to be hugely important for today’s retailers, mobile apps are going out of style.
“This switch from mobile apps to in-browser experiences is largely being driven by the surge of mobile search and traffic, consumers have grown accustomed to managing their lives through a web browser. As such, the idea of manually installing and launching a different app for each brand experience seems like an unnecessary hassle.”
Such findings raise important questions for retailers
These two reports raise important questions on the subject of retailers’ relationship with mobile apps – not least of which is, how realistic is it to imagine customers buying through multiple apps on their smartphone?
On the one hand, research is telling us that consumers want to use apps supplemented with AI that help them to make choices based on previous purchases. But on the other hand, and in the context of this ever-faster world we live in, we’re told consumers are only interested in finding what they’re looking for and that browsers are the answer to this demand for pace.
Retailer-specific apps can certainly underpin customer experience and potentially support loyalty, but can we foresee consumers opening multiple apps from their smartphone to make purchases? We are sure this is a debate that will continue throughout 2017.
Talk to our logistics consulting and supply chain consulting specialists here at Bis Henderson Consulting today to learn more about the assistance that we can provide in your efforts to optimise your organisation’s supply chain.