Mobile App Madness: Nice or Necessity?

I have recently had numerous conversations around mobile applications and what retailers feel is one of the simpler, more immediate steps towards achieving the sometimes overwhelming omnichannel strategy. 

The conversations really had me thinking, what makes a great mobile app? And does a mobile app make sense for all retailers and brands?

While it’s clear in-store continues to dominate retail sales, a strong mobile strategy can definitely help drive your customers along the path to purchase. That being said, a mobile strategy doesn’t necessarily mean a branded mobile app. Perhaps sometimes it’s a little bit more – or maybe even a little less. 

Apps & You 

Think about the mobile applications you keep on your phone and how you use them. I remember when I purchased my very first iPhone I downloaded app after app whether they solved a problem or not. Music apps, interactive games, retailer apps, social media apps… even an interactive beer glass and whoopee cushion. Now I like to keep my apps to two screens – anything more and my whole life feels cluttered!

The Mobile App Math 

Apparently I’m not alone – according to Usablenet’s 2016 Mobile App Guidebook, consumers are very selective of the retailer apps they download and use. Consumers who have one to two retailer applications make up 39% while those who have three to five make up 27% and those who have zero make up 21% of the population. If 87% of consumers have less than five retailer applications on their devices, how do you make that top five list?

Is the app useful? Does it grow brand awareness and loyalty? Is it user friendly? And do you have the resources to keep it cutting edge?

Retail App Run-down 


Both of these solve a major pain point in the path to purchase not only by streamlining the service but also by allowing consumers to pay more easily. It’s not only a great experience, but these brands are delighting their customer at the end of the path.



This app truly enhances the customer experience by ensuring customers are productive, have a great shopping visit, and Target creates a reason for them to repeatedly use the app. Features include managing and sharing personal lists, showing store locations and displaying product availability.


JC Penney/​Michaels/​Shoppers Drug Mart

Couponing is one of the most effective ways to create a loyal following with a mobile application, provided you have the type of product or brand that suits being discounted. Companies like JC Penney, Michaels and Shoppers Drug Mart provide daily or weekly special offers with mobile coupons and access to reward points all via the application.


Home Depot/​Best Buy

In addition to promotions and store locators, both Home Depot and Best Buy have created product scanning within their apps. This allows customers to scan any barcode and instantly view further specifications, customer reviews, images, etc.



Providing a lifestyle benefit can be a strategic way to avoid discounting or perhaps the brand doesn’t have physical locations and relies on third party retailers. Nike does a great job of providing free fitness apps for running and workouts with a virtual personal trainer to increase brand reach and keep their products top of mind.


Is a Mobile App a Must? 

What if these scenarios just don’t add up for your company or you don’t have the budget and resources? Mobile strategy doesn’t always mean an application. Sometimes mobile web is still the answer! According to the RetailMeNot 2015 study, one third of mobile users prefer to use both web and apps at different times. Mobile web offers consistency, while apps offer a contextualized experience.

Discoveries included:

  • 50% of customers are more likely to read reviews online
  • It’s a split decision between comparing prices online versus with an app
  • 43% of consumers are more likely to purchase online
  • 40% of consumers are more likely to check an order status with an app

Whatever your mobile strategy may be, always ensure you have an attractive and simple user interface, clear copy and messaging, and features that allow your customers a simple and enjoyable path to purchase.

What mobile app or web service do you use most? Leave us your comments below!