Who Uses Retail Mobile Apps?

By Ashley Sefferman | September 4th, 2015

At AppLift, we strive to offer mobile app advertisers the best technology platform for their user acquisition and re-engagement needs. However, we also understand that advertising is just one - important - part of the efforts that app publishers need to undertake for their overall app strategy. For this reason, we appreciate and, at times, support all industry initiatives aiming at better understanding mobile trends and behaviors.

One of the domains where mobile still has to pierce through (at least in Western markets) is e-commerce. This month, our friends at Apptentive put together an interesting report on retail apps and we decided to offer the readers of the AppLift blog a summary of their main findings. Among other things, we were happily surprised to discover that more people than we thought use retail apps! Do not hesitate to let us know in the comments if you have questions or remarks.

Happy (mobile) shopping!

Data around retail mobile app usage is shifting at lightening speed. Between retailers releasing better apps and increasing levels of customer adoption across all age groups, how we use retail apps to shop and engage with our favorite brands sees more continuous change than many other app categories (like games, travel, entertainment, etc.).

To better understand the retail app usage landscape, we conducted a retail mobile app usage consumer study in August (you can download the complete results from the study here). Many insights were gleaned from the data we collected (I highly recommend reading the full report), but today, we’ll focus on answering the following questions:

  • Who uses retail mobile apps?
  • What do they use them for?
  • What does it all mean for retailers?

Ready? Let’s go!

Retail app consumer demographics

Retail apps are used across the globe, but we focused on surveying people living in the US for our study. The top three regions in the US surveyed were Pacific (19%), South Atlantic (15%), and East North Central (14%). Of our survey respondents, 56% identified as women and 44% identified as men. It’s also important to note that most survey respondents had some amount of disposable income, with the average making between $50,000 to $74,999 per year. Lastly, the largest group of respondents (27%) fell into the 18-29 age group, with the next largest group—perhaps surprisingly—falling into the age 60+ (26%).

Out of the consumers surveyed, a whopping 88% of respondents use retail mobile apps. Of the respondents who use retail mobile apps, 61% use the apps at least once a month. Based on the aforementioned data, it’s clear retail apps have a growing user base, but we wanted to go one step further to find out what consumers used the apps for.

Apps change traditional in-store shopping

Mobile apps are shifting the way retailers drive in-store sales. Customers are using their retail mobile apps to help guide purchasing decisions before they step foot into a storefront, and are also using them while shopping in-store at an alarmingly high rate: 51% of survey respondents who use retail mobile apps use apps while shopping in-store. Reasons for using apps in-store varies, with the top five reasons including: redeeming in-store discounts, comparing prices, viewing product ratings and reviews, to find products, and to earn reward points.

Check out the image below for a full breakdown of what drives consumers to use retail apps while shopping in-store.

As mentioned above, over half (51%) of a brand’s customers are engaging with its app while shopping in-store, which opens the door for an unprecedented number of brand-to-consumer engagement opportunities. Competitors are capitalizing on these missed opportunities by investing in valuable mobile apps shoppers love, and if your brand isn’t playing the game, it will get left behind.

Building customer loyalty

The most coveted customer segment, loyal customers are the group retailers want to engage with as frequently, and as carefully, as possible. Gaining or losing a loyal customer can mean thousands of dollars gained or lost over the customer’s lifetime, and retailers are especially sensitive to the activities of their most loyal bunch. In our study, loyal customers, or those using retail mobile apps at least seven times per month and making in-store purchases seven or more times each month, make up 26% of respondents who use retail mobile apps.

Right out of the gate, 26% may seem small, but when companies look at how much more loyal customers are engaging and purchasing with their brand than other customer groups, 26% could very well make up over half of their yearly revenue. Mobile apps offer a new, unique way for retailers to connect with their most loyal customers through activities like in-store shopping, personalized customer journeys, unique perks, and more.

Providing value by enhancing customers’ in-store shopping experiences will earn their love, helping to create loyal shoppers for life. Mobile apps make customers’ lives easy by enhancing their shopping experiences—the better an experience is with a brand’s app, the more delighted its customers will be, positioning them to become loyal over time. Customers appreciate investments retailers make in mobile apps for the customers’ benefit, and return the favor by purchasing from retailers who meet them where they are: mobile apps.

What this means for holiday shopping

Holiday shopping is stressful, so anything retailers can provide to make their customers’ lives easier during the season will be welcomed with open arms. Based on our data, mobile apps are the most obvious way to make shopping experiences less stressful, especially during the rush of the holiday season.

Retailers take notice: Based on our survey data, 74% of people who use retail mobile apps plan to use them to do at least some of their holiday shopping this year. Of survey respondents who said they have used retail mobile apps at least once in the last month, 81% of them plan on using them to do at least some of their holiday shopping this year. Consumers are already browsing the app stores for apps that will help them purchase the items they need this holiday season, and if your brand isn’t playing in the game, you can bet a competitor will be.

Looking ahead

The world of retail mobile apps has changed dramatically over the last few years, and will only continue dramatic change in the future. Based on what we know about how consumers are using retail apps, our biggest learning is that apps are worth investing in, even if your brand is still working on nailing down its apps’ ROI across all points of purchase. Retail apps drive revenue and loyalty across many different levels, and the retail industry is still early in understanding the exact impact apps have on their brands. Even though there is still ground to cover, one learning from our survey is certain: Retailers who invest in high-quality mobile apps will reap the benefits on enormous levels, while slow-to-adopt competitors suffer the consequences.

Does your retail brand offer a mobile app? What have your experiences been so far? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Ashley Sefferman
Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A mobile marketing and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about mobile apps, loyalty, inbound marketing, and making the mobile world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter @ashseff.

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