When Mobile Apps Are Not the Answer to Omnichannel Success

Marketers have been talking about the rapid rise of mobile and the fast growth among adoption and usage over the past half a decade. With this movement, the popularity of mobile apps has skyrocketed with retailers vying to get a place on a customers phone, with the home screen being the grand prize. Retailers see mobile apps as a great avenue to drive engagement and lifetime value.

What are omnichannel marketers supposed to focus on in order to achieve success in mobile? Here are the benefits of investing in a mobile web vs. mobile app experience:

Benefits of a Mobile Web Experience

  • Emphasis on search (more focused on intent)
  • Accessibility (no need to download an app)
  • Compatibility across devices

Benefits of a Mobile App

  • Branded Experience for Customers
  • Greater set of customer data to build off
  • Personalized Notifications

Why apps aren’t always the answer to a retailer’s omnichannel issues

While retailers love the idea of a mobile app and the amount of data and engagement that they *believe* will come their way, the usage numbers come to say otherwise. Retailers are romantic about their mobile apps and have much more to lose with mobile apps than the mobile web.

Mobile Web is the Gateway to Getting Consumers In the Store

The biggest opportunity for retailers in mobile outside of the store is in search. Before retailers can consider the opportunities of converting shoppers in the store, they have to make sure their mobile search is optimized correctly and providing relevant information, such as product info and store locations nearby. According to Google, the power of local information, whether it be a store location or checking to see if an item is in stock, is a great way to drive store visits for retailers. This is helpful for retailers because it signals purchase intent from the consumer, and once their questions are validated through discovery, they will be more apt to continue the shopping experience to the store.

Apps are meant for retention

The biggest takeaway from retail mobile apps is that consumers need a legitimate reason to download a retailer’s app and justify not deleting it after one use case. Retailers that have lower cost items tend to perform better since there is more frequency and opportunities to purchase items. Consumers will be much more likely to have a Walgreen’s app on hand because it provides more value day to day vs. a Best Buy app where purchases are more sizable and infrequent.

Retailers love the idea of having a mobile app due to the amount of control they have in tailoring the experience to the customer. However, retailers have to be extremely careful in the value they bring to customers and ensure they are not annoying or creeping them out with the data they are able to collect from app usage.


Invest in a great mobile web experience

The biggest opportunity is in the mobile web experience: Only nine of the top 100 retailers have a responsively designed site, the format recommended by Google. When looking to make a purchase, the retailers that are going to win over time will focus on their mobile web experience with relevant calls-to-action that effectively move consumers down the funnel and convert into customers.

Control the Mobile Experience In the Store

Consumers already feel uncomfortable with downloading retailer apps and giving up personally identifiable information (PII) in order to get value from retailers. When a consumer downloads a mobile app, they are at the mercy of the retailer and subject to promotional messages outside of the store. Consumers like a mobile experience, but there is a level of trust that the retailer must adhere to that doesn’t drive them away from the brand. Brands such as American Signature have implemented their own mobile experience by providing customers with tablets in their stores and have driven substantial results for the furniture retailer.

What are your thoughts on mobile web vs. mobile apps? Let us know on Twitter @cloudtags.