RSR Research: Mobile Apps or Mobile Sites?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
My view, and one confirmed by interactions with retailers, is that mobile apps are crucial to future retailing success.
A consumer can log in and stay logged in, which means that activity there is more likely to not be anonymous. The consumer doesn’t have to enter all her account details if she buys something. With opt-ins, retailers can send alerts and also use the phone’s location and possibly features, like its camera. I think this holds true for smartphone and tablet apps.
But sometimes I hear something that so flies in the face of what I see trending it causes me to stop and take stock. One of those moments occurred about a month ago when one individual on the vendor briefing call stated, "Retailers aren’t investing in apps. Mobile sites are the future — consumers don’t really use apps."
I’ve been trying to validate whether the miss is mine or the vendor’s ever since, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my view and his — truly diametrically opposed — both exist.
One major challenge with weighing such investments is that retailers’ apps, frankly, stink.
Retailers either don’t have them, or what they do have is barely on par with the mobile site — which is a pale reflection of the full e-commerce site. Mobile apps also need to provide utility beyond what you can get from a mobile site simply to overcome the chore of logging in. Only with one app, Facebook, have I repeatedly gone to the trouble of looking up my password to achieve this state, and I’m no power Facebook user.
Why have I gone to this trouble? Because logging into the Facebook app makes it much easier to share pictures with my friends, the pictures I mostly take with the camera on my phone.
The lesson for retailers? Provide enough utility so that it’s worth looking up your password. About the only retailer apps with which I’ve gone through this trouble are Starbucks, Amazon and Target. One, because I shop there often enough that it is worth it to remember how to log in, and, two, because of their so-easy-to-use payment feature.
Apps offer the opportunity for deeper engagement with customers passionate enough to keep your app on their phone. But that’s only true when the retailer has gone to the effort to create something worth getting passionate about. Replicating the e-commerce site — sans anything cool or interesting — is definitely not worth getting passionate about.
Do you see more of an opportunity around enhancing mobile sites vs. mobile apps? Why does it seem retailers are facing particular challenges coming up with compelling mobile apps?