Does Your Mobile Commerce Strategy Demand an App?

February 23, 2017

It goes almost without saying that the mobile commerce revolution is underway. Billions of smartphones connect users to exactly what they want instantly. Many would argue we are post revolution and just living in the new reality of mobile.

The growth of mobile is powered in part by the highly contextual nature of the smartphone. Many in the space refer to these interactions as ‘mobile moments.’ These quick encounters with the smartphone add value to everyday interactions. This behavior can be leveraged by retailers if they are ready with the right apps and mobile optimized sites.

How does a retailer make sure their mobile strategy hits the right chord with customers?

The first thing to understand is that there are varying degrees of mobile strategy and the strategy selected depends on the customer base.

Here are the options:

  1. Just use a mobile site: Don’t bother with an app. This option is great for retailers who’s users aren’t inclined to use an app or they don’t see the value-add of keeping and using an app on their mobile device. As long as sites are responsive, this is the easiest of the options.
  2. Recreate the mobile site in an app: This is probably the most common type of app out there, but the value-add is unclear. Consumers see right through a mirror copy of the mobile site. With space at a premium on mobile devices, each app has to earn its place.
  3. Create a new app experience: The most potentially rewarding, but also the most technically demanding and difficult to implement. This is a great option for retailers who want to really engage their customers and give them a great brand experience, typically by offering a service not found on the mobile site.

While mulling over the options, consider this advice: CEO and co-founder of mobile agency 64 Labs, John Duncan, advocates for a hybrid approach of Nos. 2 and 3 that allows retailers and branded manufacturers to use elements of the website where appropriate, but also offer the unique things an app can do. This avoids reinventing the wheel but also delivers app-specific benefits.

And what are the benefits of a mobile app anyway?

The true power of the phone is its ecosystem, as explained below:

  • Social apps: Customers are very likely to be already logged into social apps such as Instagram or Facebook on their phones. With one tap, they can share items from an app, whereas there may be multiple steps in mobile web or desktop environments.
  • Mobile wallets: Integrating mobile wallets lowers transactional friction, as customers don’t have to reach for their credit card to make a purchase. Also, integration is less of a technical hurdle because of its native functionality.
  • Location services: For omnichannel retailers, location awareness can add context to in-app interactions. Think of the power of an app interaction that knows your customer is in one of your stores. It can also be a powerful tool for engagement when combined with push notifications to create beacons.

At the end of the day, the most important part of an app strategy is knowing the customer base, the same as the retail core competency. If an app is right for the users it can be a rewarding venture. These loyal customers are the greatest advocates, and should be used to iterate on your app and make it better.

Making design and development choices that make an app easier to maintain should also be a consideration. Apparel retailer Bluefly chose Kibo’s native mobile app for their app experience because they could change the content in the app using the same CMS as the rest of their site.

Finally, an app is a long-term commitment. Duncan notes, “Having an app is like having a pet. You can’t get one and forget about it.”

What do you think? App or no app for your business?