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Retail Mobile Apps: 7 Things to Know

Posted by Amanda McLaughlin on Nov 10, 2021

The retail sector is currently in uncharted waters. Some people are gleefully predicting the imminent demise of brick-and-mortar stores. Others believe we’re on the cusp of a post-pandemic renaissance as people rediscover the lost joys of shopping in-store. While some brands have thrown all their energy into creating websites, their competitors have diversified into apps.

However, our 2022 Omnichannel Leadership Report found only 34% of brands have a shoppable mobile app today. With statistics suggesting American ecommerce sales will be worth $5.7 billion in 2021, the benefits of mobile apps for retailers are becoming more and more compelling.

That said, there are some common myths surrounding mobile apps for retail businesses. Below, we debunk them and in doing so, we demonstrate how shoppable apps can grow customer engagement and revenue.

Myth #1: Apps cannibalize ecommerce websites

Ecommerce through websites is fine on desktop computers and tablets. However, the limited on-screen real estate of smartphones poses challenges in consumer apps. This is particularly true for issues like product selection—displaying color ranges, size or quantity options, etc. Apps are far better suited to this, with tactile sliders and scroll options baked in. They can be complementary to the desktop experience if the UX is comparable. To deliver a cohesive brand experience, retail mobile app features should mirror desktop aesthetics wherever possible.

Myth #2: Apps damage brick-and-mortar sales

Again, think of these supposed rivals as complementary. Innovative retail mobile apps dovetail with in-store setups to tell a brand’s story and add value to the consumer experience. Apps can provide full stock lists and detailed product info, while stores let people physically sample items. Love that squishy armchair but hate the color? Check out alternative shades via an app. Want that diamond bracelet, but with a higher-carat stone? Build and order your own jewelry in-store, with an assistant helping you select other key specs like clasps—or even upselling matching accessories.

Myth #3: Apps are only of interest to the young

A 60-year-old consumer would have barely turned 21 when the personal computer boom of the early 1980s brought Commodore 64s and Sinclair Spectrums into people’s homes. Older consumers are far more tech-savvy than younger generations often assume. The growth of social media and e-ticketing has also driven the rising adoption of smartphones. 87% of 55- to 64-year-olds in the UK were using a smartphone last year. Older people may even be less guarded about sharing valuable consumer data than younger customers, even when apps seamlessly meet consumer needs.

Myth #4: Mobile apps are useless if I’m not selling goods

As smartphone use continues to rise year over year, apps can be so much more than sales portals. Retail mobile app trends have seen a gradual expansion beyond one-click ecommerce gateways into more holistic frictionless platforms. Modern apps can provide push notifications, handle service inquiries and complaints, advise on opening times, and so forth. Truly smart retailer mobile apps even incorporate loyalty schemes for regular users, automatically calculating points and applying discounts.

Myth #5: Apps can’t offer augmented or virtual reality experiences

Retail mobile app ideas of the optimal customer experience increasingly involve a degree of augmented reality, facilitating unique interactions. Swedish furniture giant IKEA offers an AR app that allows people to see furniture superimposed over a room in their homes. And this technology is not beyond the reach of smaller enterprises. AR apps like ROAR and Augment allow ecommerce store owners to quickly and cost-effectively create augmented product images to publish in their own innovative retail mobile apps.

Myth #6: Apps are too expensive

It’s a popular myth that retail mobile app features are too expensive for startups and small businesses to justify. There are plenty of off-the-shelf mobile apps for retail businesses, which can be fully customized in the same way a WordPress website will be unrecognizable from its original template design once you’ve finished modifying it. Alternatively, app platform companies can incorporate the latest retail mobile app ideas in your segment. Custom-developed apps can cost as little as $20,000, and without significant up-front expenses.

Myth #7: Apps won’t help me abroad

The best mobile apps for retail brands will be as easy to operate in Argentina or Austria as they are in America. Language selection can be made during app installation or toggled using a button/slider in the app’s header bar or settings. Adding multilingual functionality to an app hugely increases its cost-effectiveness by targeting multiple markets instead of just one, as well as appealing to domestic minorities (e.g., the large German ex-pat population in Pennsylvania).

Want to know more about mobile apps for the retail industry?

This article has hopefully outlined the benefits of mobile apps for retailers and demonstrated how consumer apps can transform the consumer experience. To learn more about this evolving (and exciting) industry, bookmark the NewStore blog.

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