Mobile Apps are Here to Stay

John Krautzel
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Despite the fact that the typical company receives only a small fraction of its total e-commerce revenue from shoppers on smartphones and other mobile devices, mobile apps intended to boost sales are here to stay. The fact that sales of mobile devices will take over laptop and desktop computing devices by 2017 means retailers must find relevant apps now or risk being left behind in the future.

Mobile apps tailored to a company's specific needs have several advantages over a website. Apps can use a smartphone's GPS system to help consumers make location-based choices. Scanners and cameras on smartphones act as information portals in stores. Companies can send customized text messages based on information stored in the app, thereby increasing retail sales. A firm's e-commerce app can be made into a finely tuned machine that fosters brand engagement, but only if the technology is made properly.

Mobile apps must be available on multiple devices, platforms and websites, and retailers must have their app on as many websites as possible. In the summer of 2014, more than 1.3 million apps were available on the Google Play store for Android devices, while 1.2 million apps were on Apple's store. Windows, Amazon and Blackberry also have stores for programming on their devices. There are plenty of marketplaces for companies to place an app for downloading, and new choices appear every week. These bits of programming account for just 15 percent of the overall online sales market, but that portion of retail sales will continue to climb as more mobile devices are sold.

Companies must create apps relevant to their own customer relationship management system. Do mobile apps integrate sales, marketing, tech support and customer service into one convenient piece of technology? How well can customers engage with a company based on the app's interface? Beacons in stores and timely text messages combine to make customers notice that an app is a necessary part of shopping. For example, coupon specials or sales can be exclusive to certain apps as opposed to becoming store-wide sales announced in flyers. Once customers use the app more often, firms can expand their use to capture more market share and greater revenue streams from repeat customers.

Users are more engaged with apps that have unique discounts found nowhere else, link directly to customer support and allow customers to check stock and inventory at a particular location. Interactive apps are more successful than static programming when it comes to keeping customers' attention. When information in a store changes, so should an app. When a particular dress goes from 30 in stock to less than 10, customers looking for that specific item need to know. Subscribers crave exclusive content that makes them feel special when they interact with their favorite outlet. Apps must provide value to customers to make them want to return to a store again and again.

Mobile apps are here to stay, thanks to a new generation of shoppers who crave smaller, faster and better computing devices. Retailers that provide relevant, interactive experiences for customers are already ahead of the game, especially since repeat business forms a large part of a customer base.


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