Guest blog: The trouble with retail apps

28 JAN 2016

Nick Black, CEO of app developer Apadmi, explains why retail apps in the UK are under-performing – and how they can be improved.

Addressing the recurring issues associated with retail apps
Following recent research that suggested UK retailers are missing out on as much as £6.6 billion worth of sales because of insufficient app development, we decided to conduct our own survey.

We set out to discover exactly what consumers are looking for in a retail app, and the main bugbears causing them to abandon or delete them. While our research found that 85 per cent of smartphone users in the UK use retail apps, a staggering 71 per cent of shoppers agree that there is a significant gap in the market for improved retail apps.

As we know, a great retail app can be an invaluable tool for shoppers while they are on the move, as they can provide promotions and deals as they are walking around the store, give useful product information, and even be used to locate stores.

They can also help shoppers to perform key functions of the retail journey such as click and collect and product payment.

However, at present it seems that a large proportion of UK retail apps are not offering what consumers need, causing many to switch off or delete the app entirely.

So why are the majority of retail apps underperforming?
The research unveiled a number of common mistakes that retailers make when developing an app. For example, it found that many are not very easy to use, with 56 per cent of shoppers claiming that functionality could be better.

Another recurring problem is that the apps are frustratingly slow and unresponsive. Our research found that as many as 60 per cent of those surveyed would delete an app if an issue with speed or responsiveness cropped up. Retailers cannot afford to get this wrong.

Our research also identified the marketing function as an area for improvement. At present customers are frustrated by too many promotional messages. Our research showed that 40 per cent of those surveyed wouldn’t think twice about deleting an app if they felt they were receiving too many untargeted communications.

Interestingly though, 67 per cent of people surveyed would be happy to receive messages and deals that were tailored to their individual preferences. With this in mind, retailers need to work hard to ensure promotional messages are always relevant and personalised to the customer.

Moving forward
A number of retailers have come to us asking what can be done to increase engagement on their retail apps. Customers are quick to drop mobile apps that are slow and unresponsive and so developers and retailers must work together to build apps that are intuitive, easy to navigate, and fast.

As well as ensuring the look and feel of the app is on point, it is also crucial to get the marketing function right. To create an app that provides customers with useful information about products and promotions that is tailored and of interest to the individual, personalisation is key.

The best way to achieve personalisation is to adopt an omni-channel marketing strategy that provides customers with a seamless and consistent shopping experience regardless of the device or channel. It can also be used to capture large amounts of customer data as the shopper’s retail journey from one touch point to another is mapped and recorded.

This can then be used to target app users with tailored and relevant promotional content. Our research shows that there is still a long way to go before retailers achieve this level of personalisation, as only 11 per cent of people use all channels including the store, the website and the app. This demonstrates the need for retailers to implement a strong omni-channel strategy to help address app engagement.

By failing to invest in intuitive mobile apps then retailers are struggling to engage effectively with customers. The majority of retail apps just do not have the level of functionality and personalisation needed for this level of engagement.

So moving forward, app developers need to work closely with retailers to build intuitive apps that are fast and easy to use. It is also important to have an omni-channel marketing strategy in place that captures important customer information in order to really give the customer what they want.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.