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Why Apps Are the Future of Retail


Retail, like many other sectors, has embraced the mobile app as an invaluable and essential piece of their overall business model. And it makes sense, as the retail mobile app experience is becoming more immersive and personalized every year. It’s definitely the future of retail, but not without risk. While there’s an incredible download rate for retail apps, there’s an equally dismaying rate of uninstalls to counter it. Developing a retail mobile app for your brand offers unlimited branding and conversion power, so let’s take a look at what the state of retail apps is today, and where it’s headed in the future so you can be prepared for the app development phase of your great app idea.

Current Trends in Retail

Here’s a few stats regarding the state of retail apps today.

  •         Good News and Bad News: According to this survey, retail and shopping apps are the fourth most downloaded apps on the market. Not bad, right? Now, guess where retail apps stand on the most deleted apps list? You guessed it…fourth. Sounds like a zero sum proposition, but there’s lots to learn from this. Some retail apps tend to be a one-and-done situation, offering one big discount or coupon, but not providing any other perks that would make it sticky. More about this later.
  •         Age Matters: Retail apps are currently used most often with younger consumers. This report shows that 45% of Gen X’ers (35-54 years old) and 46% of Millennials (18-34 years old) have used retail apps, while 84% of Baby Boomers (55 years old +) have never used or even heard of a retail app. Yes, appealing to the broader market of younger consumers is wise, but cracking that Baby Boomer demographic (who still has enormous spending power) may be just as successful.
  •         It’s Growing Fast: This study from Synchrony shows that the download rate of retail apps has doubled from a year ago, and a full 67% of consumers surveyed have at least one on their mobile phone. As retailers continue to improve and promote their apps, more consumers will realize the benefits of using them, and growth should continue rapidly.

There’s a snapshot of a few things that are happening in the retail app world today. Having a firm understanding of the past and present is a must; now let’s look at the emerging future of retail apps.

Personalized Retail Apps

There’s nothing people like more than a little personal attention, and there’s no other type of app that’s better equipped to deliver a personalized experience than retail. The best personalized experiences inside an app occur with careful and aggrandized data collection, and much of that can be acquired voluntarily from the user. Consumers respond positively to all sorts of personal touches.

While effective retail apps will win users over with relevant suggestions and discounts based on their buying and browsing history, you should realize that irrelevant or poor suggestions will turn them off just as quickly. With the addition of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), you can include integrative features like virtual dressing rooms or 3D mockups of your living room to see how your furniture would look and fit. Point is, your users will aid in your data mining with both their positive and negative feedback, and the ability of your app design to transform all this information into a personalized and immersive experience that keeps the user happy and engaged.

Users Have High Expectations

With so many options and services available to the everyday shopper, the average user’s expectations and needs are at an all-time high. Seemingly innocuous steps of the shopping experience such as proper inventory, product exchanges or returns, or a checkout line now need to be reexamined closely as potentially damaging friction points. Retail apps that address these everyday concerns with real time updates, advance purchase and checkout options, digital receipts and geolocators are keeping their users engaged and setting the bar for other upcoming apps. Integrating AI for use with personalized chatbots that can guide users through all these features is an example of a future innovation that makes your app all the more desirable.

No More Brick and Mortar

There are many reasons why consumers prefer shopping either in a physical store or online. Online shoppers like the 24/7 availability and easily accessible price comparisons and reviews, while in-store consumers like actual contact with the item and no shipping fees. Many studies show that the preference for one or the other is almost equal among all consumers, and while online shopping continues to grow, you should keep both users in mind when you develop your retail app. Clearly, the online shopper should be able to complete all tasks, including purchases and shipping arrangements, all friction-free within your app. Additionally, your app should be an indispensable in-store companion for those who prefer to go to the physical storefront. It’s a good idea to go through the entire purchase journey, starting with store locators and updated inventory to ensure the desired product is in stock (including size and color, if applicable). Easily accessible reviews and how-to videos can help convince the buyer with a little social proof, and virtual assistants or chatbots should be able to answer questions or suggest complementary items. Push notifications should gently remind the user of discounts, loyalty programs to sign up for, and other featured items that you’ve shown interest in before. Finally, having a mobile wallet or streamlined purchase process with an emailed receipt makes getting out of the store with purchase in hand that much easier. Ideally, your app should satisfy every type of shopper no matter what their preference, so expanding the breadth of your retail app should be a top priority.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it all up, you need to think big when considering your mobile retail app development. It should be easily scalable, super secure regarding user information and payment portals, and consistently tested to make sure it runs smoothly. Incorporating current technology while constantly considering future improvements is the best way to keep your brand relevant and your users engaged.

Do you have an idea for a retail app that you would like to explore more thoroughly? Check out some of Koombea’s work in the retail space and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation!



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