Why aren’t more retail apps being downloaded?

Discussion
Oct 05, 2016
Tom Ryan

A new comScore study finds that part of the reason retail apps are seeing meager downloads is that people only want to engage with a limited number of apps overall.

On average, 45 percent of consumers’ app time is spent on a single favorite app, according to the comScore study. About nine out of every 10 minutes spent on mobile apps are spent in their top five favorite apps.

In order, the top 15 apps based on time spent using are: Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Play, Gmail, Pandora, Instagram, Amazon mobile, Apple Music, Apple Maps, Pokémon Go, Snapchat and Pinterest.

A related challenge is that people aren’t looking for new apps to clog their mobile phones. Some 49 percent of consumers don’t download any new apps in an average month and 13 percent download just one every month.

Among retailers, the only popular app was Amazon, which was found to be on 25 percent of smartphone users’ home screens and accounted for 34 percent of the time consumers spend in the shopping sector. The second was eBay, representing eight percent of time spent shopping.

With the rise in mobile shopping, a Washington Post article suggested retailers may need to focus on chatbots, artificial-intelligence-powered robots that enable retailers to communicate with consumers via other apps.

The comScore study suggested that companies looking to grow their app usage need to “rethink how to break through to the consumer’s screen” with people limiting the number of apps they use.

Belly, known for its iPad-based loyalty program near cash registers, just launched its first enterprise platform, Blue, that promises to solve the low amount of downloads for retail apps by connecting loyalty efforts across channels and touchpoints. The suite promises to integrate e-mail marketing programs with rewards, whether the shopper checks-out in-store, online or via mobile, to continually provide compelling reasons to download and engage with an app.

Wrote Greg Sterling for Marketing Land about Blue’s launch, “Absent app adoption, retailers will perpetually have to pay Google or Facebook as gatekeepers for traffic.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the low rate of low downloads of retail apps due to the general nature of app usage or more about the incentives and features missing from retail apps? Should retailers shift investments from their own retail apps to chatbots and other tools supporting mobile purchases via more popular apps?

Braintrust
"Apps have served as a useful interim step toward greater online engagement."
"Retailers shouldn’t take it personally. Overall, the app era has peaked..."
"Retail apps are too interested in the bottom line to appeal to the creative inclinations of their customers. "

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22 Comments on "Why aren’t more retail apps being downloaded?"

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Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Retailers shouldn’t take it personally. Overall, the app era has peaked with people downloading very few new apps at all and those are mostly games or for personal messaging. The hassle of keeping up with app discovery and updates has led people to settle into what works for them with little interest in what’s new. Retailers will have to refocus on omnichannel and more in-store experiences to capture and maintain consumer interest/loyalty. As discussed previously on RetailWire, the most successful retail apps are those that offer discounts and redeemable loyalty perks. In other words, retailers have the most success when they “buy off” consumers, not when they attempt to entertain or offer services.

Peter Sobotta
BrainTrust

This is a case where retailers need to ask why they want users to download apps and what value they can deliver through the app. Without a clear value proposition retailers may get downloads, but usage and ultimately conversions will be far too low to show a reasonable ROI.

HY Louis
Guest
10 months 12 days ago

Remember when every retailer had their own credit card? Now we try to use one card for all of them. We need one retail app for all retailers. Maybe retailers can work together with one company that puts all apps into one main app.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Most retail apps aren’t worth the time to download. Consumers want programs/apps that work across multiple retailers and channels. They want apps that are technologically up to date. Individual retail apps do neither. Successful shopping apps deliver a strong, positive experience. They save consumers time and money. Few retail apps, with the exception of Amazon and eBay, do this.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

One thing is for sure, there can be such a thing as too many apps. Consumers are more than ready to simplify their interactivity with e-tailers, if they can, by accessing a one-size-fits-better type of app.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Blaming the proliferation of apps is a cop-out to say the least. Maybe, just maybe, people are looking for some small part of life that remains driven by human relationships and not by code. Shopping is, generally, a pleasurable inter-personal thing. Maybe, if you believe that humans have a natural tendency to “tribe” and that the foundation of tribing is exchange, retail should go against the current of obsessive data analysis, automation and apps and get back to being an experience of human exchange that strengthens and energizes the whole tribe.

Just the two words “down” and “load” are exhausting if not depressing. I throw open my window and shout: “Get up people, zap the app, throw off that oppressive load. Let no one track, dissect and predict you and go — go shop with all your heart!”

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

Apps have served as a useful interim step toward greater online engagement, and we are seeing the emergence of app portals that better reflect a specific consumer’s interests and behaviors. As apps move to the foreground or background the experience of app access has got to improve. And when the app better links more omnichannel elements, opt-channel emerges. As apps are used in the physical store to serve patron needs, visible messaging such as digital signage becomes more important to communicate key messages and draw attention to product/service offers.

Jasmine Glasheen
Guest
Jasmine Glasheen
10 months 12 days ago

Customers prefer to shop at an individual brand’s store when shopping in person or online, but customers shopping via mobile devices want variety and inspiration. Mobile shoppers are at the brainstorming phase of their buying process.

Retail apps are too interested in the bottom line to appeal to the creative inclinations of their customers. Does this make sense? Pinterest is popular because it’s a creative social playground.

Customers browsing for pleasure don’t want to look at advertisements. Retailers would be better off investing in brand ambassadors and photography, then streaming photos and content through existing apps.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Good fresh thinking here Jasmine. Thank you.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

For shoppers there has to be a compelling reason to download a single merchant app, otherwise their phones will quickly get out of hand, so to speak. Aggregate apps, as I consider Amazon to be, are far more convenient for shoppers, whether that’s fair to other retailers or not. I’d like to see how individual retailers evolve their mobile strategies in the next 12 months in order to respond.

Shawn Harris
BrainTrust

I have always believed that people keep apps that have some utility. That utility can be that they are educational, informational, entertaining, offer material everyday convenience (saves time), and/or materially provides everyday savings. Historically, retailers have focused on commerce. Given the transient relationship between retailers and shoppers, this is not enough. Amazon gets this, that’s why Prime offers more than just special pricing and free two-day shipping — it has to be about more than just commerce. Solve real problems to gain stickiness.

Brian Kelly
Guest
10 months 12 days ago

I agree with Hy. These digital issues have analog predecessors which inform us as to shopper behavior. Folks want to simplify their lives. One all-purpose card works. Though I don’t think one all-purpose app is quite right, at least it hasn’t proven to be right by the couponing/e-insert apps.

Retailers should invest in making the shopping experience seamless/friction-free. Make sure their site UX is flawless on a mobile device. Keep it simple. We remain in a share battle. Win on experience.

As we say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Chris Weigand
Guest
10 months 12 days ago

As a consumer I don’t have the time to download and peruse an app for every store I go in to. It’s bad enough my wallet and keychain contain several loyalty cards. These days I simply just give them my phone number because that’s easier than a loyalty card. Getting back to apps, Starbucks is the only retail app I use, and that is because I can pay with it and look up what music is playing. I believe my wife may use a Target app for coupons. Beyond that, our phones have too many apps as it is. And if I only go to J.C. Penney or PetSmart once a month, why should I waste real estate on my phone with their apps? So it’s really a real estate question too, right?

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

It’s all about serving the customer and making it easier for them. If the app serves the customer like the Starbucks and Chick-fil-A apps then customers don’t mind having a couple of extra apps to keep up with. But those types of apps may not work for every brand.

Retailers need to rethink how to offer experiences and interact with their customers.

For my 2 cents.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

In-store apps simply don’t work! Why? They don’t work because shoppers don’t want to have their shopping journey and experiences dictated by someone or something else. Apps are good for agencies that develop content and can crow about their award-winning mobile expertise. A typical smartphone user uses six to 10 apps each week. As a result, any new app must push other apps out of the way. A November 2015 study found that two-thirds of all apps are discarded within a day and that 97 percent of all apps are discarded within a month. These statistics are also directly related to my belief that in-store beacons also have a limited value. In most cases, beacon technology requires an associated app. Proximity marketing that doesn’t require an app is far more interesting and valued by shoppers and brands alike.

Rich Richardson
Guest
10 months 12 days ago

The mobile web is quickly displacing the app infrastructure, and it’s convenience, simplicity, scalability, versatility, and universal utility makes it easy for consumers. Retailers should learn from Amazon’s laser focus on the customer to provide value, but that doesn’t necessarily always mean price and/or discounts! Look at the amazing success of Prime, and the ongoing evolution of the increased value proposition that it offers. THINK about it: Prime members pay for the privilege of buying on Amazon more often, and spending more money there!

Jeff Bezos recently stated at the shareholder conference that “Amazon’s goal is to make it ‘irresponsible’ to not be a Prime member,” and he is well on his way….

Steve Johnson
Guest

Retail app adoption is low because the benefit threshold is lacking … in both perception and design (from those I’ve seen).

Endeavour is required to make the consumer WANT to download the app. It also needs to be “sold” to the consumer so they optimise use of features and benefits. Currently the selling process is no more than scattering bait on a pond.

My criticism of mobile apps to date is that they’ve been designed for online use and subsequent attempts to re-engineer and work in-store simply doesn’t work (or create the necessary level of benefit). It’s really important for fashion retailers where more than 80% of clothes are still purchased in physical stores.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

Looking at just the download number may not be the best metric to focus on for a retailer. A retailer needs to evaluate what is right for its shopper and its goals and then determine the mechanisms in which to invest. Does the brand, shopping experience, interaction level of the shopper work within the structure of the app experience? If so then an investment in an app as large part of strategy may be a benefit. That said, the gross numbers of app downloads is only one metric. Are the most loyal shoppers using the app? Are shoppers with apps buying visiting more often? Lots of ways to leverage and to evaluate the value of an app’s strategy.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
10 months 12 days ago

All the Millennials and Gen Z’ers I know prefer to use chat or text — I believe that these platforms will add more capabilities and usurp the place of apps in the near future.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Consumers are continually bombarded with retailers and other companies trying to get them to download their mobile apps. There are only so many pages of screens that consumers want to scan through so they are becoming more selective when deciding what apps to download. Everyone seems to be reaching app fatigue. That said, there is hope, as savvy retailers are figuring out the secret sauce to get consumers to download their apps and use them on a regular basis. Overstock.com has more than 5 million users of their mobile app and Starbucks is driving as much of 20% of their revenue from mobile apps. There are two keys to mobile app success: frequency of shopping and engaging features. First, consumers are not likely to download an app unless they are a frequent customer of the brand, anticipate that the will use the app regularly or get a great value for using it. Otherwise, why waste the time to download the app and have it increase the clutter on your app screens. Once customers have downloaded your app, success will only be achieved if you can get your customers to open the app frequently. Frequency is driven by engaging and valuable… Read more »
Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

The cost of entry for shopping apps is the following: they must REDUCE the time it takes to complete your mission; they must ADD offers. Retailers must have Wi-Fi that WORKS in their stores! It’s simple and no one is checking all the boxes. When that occurs, we will see a huge bump in app use and hit a tipping point.

Jake Kiser
Guest
10 months 11 days ago

We have seen the truly innovative retailers thinking of mobile as more than just apps, treating the medium as a way to connect with their customers whenever and wherever they happen to be. It’s conceivable that retailers will use a combination of native apps, mobile web, geo-location, and in-store hardware (like beacons or WiFi) to deliver a very customized experience for all of their customers. A well executed loyalty program, powered by a modern technology platform, would allow brands to truly get to know their customers through 1st party loyalty data, continuing to deliver the most personalized experience across mobile (and all other channels) for the lifetime of that customer-retailer relationship.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Apps have served as a useful interim step toward greater online engagement."
"Retailers shouldn’t take it personally. Overall, the app era has peaked..."
"Retail apps are too interested in the bottom line to appeal to the creative inclinations of their customers. "

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