Where should retailers start with mobile apps?

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First, the grim statistics.

Pinch Media, whose software tracks the performance of participating iPhone apps, found that:

  • fewer than 5% of iPhone users are still actively using an app, one month after downloading it
  • after 90 days, that figure drops to around the 1% mark
  • only 1 in 100 will ever become long term users…
  • …and even then, average app time per use is only 5 minutes

It’s a crowded market too, with over 134k live apps on the Apple Store alone, and a new one added every two minutes or so. With the average iPhone having 65 apps installed, this whole picture all adds up to a tough competitive environment for a user’s time.

So, with this in mind, where should a retailer start?

Our advice is to focus on familiarity. Pick out the things your brand experience or proposition is best known for, and consider how these features and benefits could be brought to life within a mobile app. Only then, once these benefits have been delivered in a stable app, should you start adding on new features, one by one (users do like to see their apps being regularly cared for, and each update keeps users interested).

A good example of such behaviour is Amazon. Their focus started with making sure that familiar, well-loved and iconic feature such as Recommendations, 1-Click purchase and Wishlists were safely delivered for its on-the-move shoppers. Only then did they launch the ingenious Amazon Remembers, which enables users to photograph an item they’re looking at and have the item found and priced on Amazon.

Similarly, Tesco’s grocery app first offered a basic shopping list function on its app, where customers typed in what they needed, just as they might have written it on a paper list in the past. Later releases of the app then allowed users to scan barcodes of items in their house (or anywhere else) to add to the shopping list. It’s debatable whether this added functionality was any faster, but it was certainly more fun to use!

It’s also notable from this add-on approach how retailers have focused on their existing user base, mimicking known features for a known crowd (both the above examples have login screens to allow seamless integration of existing accounts or loyalty cards).

The bottom line is that apps are still a very new phenomenon. By using apps, customers effectively filter out other retailers. They’re like bookmarks on your desktop computer – a shortcut to something you know you like, adding efficiency, comfort, and convenience.As a result, loyal customers should relate easily to them, whereas newcomers may feel a bit suffocated.

By all means, make your retail app distinctive if you can, but aim to deepen the existing bond you have with your shoppers first, before you get too cute with unfamiliar features that other retailers might already be better known for than you.

Data Source and Further reading:

http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/pinchmedia/iphone-appstore-secrets-pinch-media#31

http://www.bizreport.com/2009/02/lifespan_of_mobile_apps_found_wanting.html

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