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Does your eCommerce business need a mobile app?

Each week, we set aside 30 minutes to tackle some of the common questions we get asked by our clients. With the world of digital moving at such an incredible speed, we recognise the importance of keeping sharp, engaged and at the forefront of the industry.

This week, we took a look at whether creating a mobile app is a good investment for your ecommerce business. Here are our findings:

Mobile is the future

It’s easy to assume that creating a mobile app will be the right thing to do for your business. Over 2.5 billion people worldwide own a smartphone and usage of mobile apps is up 28% from 2016. Research by Buildfire shows that the average person spends 3 hours a day consuming digital media on a mobile device, with 90% of this time spent on accessing Apps.

“Nearly three in 10 consumers began their path to purchase on a branded mobile app. Consumers showed a preference to research products where branded apps existed and 42% of smartphone users who browse products on the go plan to make a purchase within an hour.” (source: Buildfire)

So, as an e-commerce retailer, what could possibly stop you from jumping onto this awesome sounding growth opportunity? Clarabridge discusses the top reasons why an app may fail, covering areas such as UX, testing and, most importantly, poor research.

You need to know your audience

Any new growth venture should be informed by audience research. You need to understand the problem you’re actually solving, which makes the app worth downloading. For example, top line research around mobile commerce reveals that 62% of people are more likely to make a purchase via a mobile website, than 38% on an app. Given this, and expense of developing an app, we need to consider the purpose and objectives, and if it is worth it.

Remember, mobile memory is a big commitment for users

For a user, a space on their home screen is really important and a big commitment. Between 80-90% of apps get deleted after first use. Often this is because retailers will entice consumers to download using special offers to hook them in. This can lead to a really high cost per acquisition, whereas from a marketing perspective, you may be better off exploring some online digital formats instead.

Ask yourself, how does my app benefit my customer?

Sometimes the best thing to do is look at popular competitors and consider what the added benefit is with their app? Think about why you, as a user, would download it. Thinking this way about your own app may help you consider if it is worth creating or not. An app is a huge financial and time commitment - with the need for additional marketing and updating.

A mobile responsive website may be the answer

It’s also worth considering that an app doesn’t have to be an ‘app’ as we know it on the app store. You could instead focus on a mobile website that offers a great experience. According to research by comScore, mobile websites get more visitors than native apps. But, people spend less time on mobile websites compared to apps. So it’s a question of weighing up what you want to achieve vs what each platform can offer.

There’s a whole list of pros and cons to choosing one over the other, and what matters to you will largely depend on your business. Here’s a quick roundup of points to consider:

Why you should choose mobile responsive

  • Easily indexed by search engines for better search results
  • More traffic, which means more eyeballs on your products
  • Easy to design, develop and maintain
  • More cost effect - you can make one site and ensure it is responsive, instead of having to develop a website and separate app
  • Cost effective in terms of building one site and making it responsive as opposed to two sites for the desktop and mobile Web
  • It’s easier to keep track of your site’s performance using Google Analytics
  • Faster page loading times

Why you should choose a mobile app

  • Well designed apps can encourage higher engagement
  • It can be easier to get consumers to make purchases via an app
  • Customers are more likely to sign in to use an app - making it easier to track loyalty or convert them to email or social campaigns
  • An app can give you access to user data or smartphone components like GPS and bluetooth

So, should you invest in a mobile app?

After a lot of research, we’ve come up with some key questions you should ask yourself before making the decision to invest in a mobile app for your business.

  • Does the app achieve anything that a mobile website could not?
  • How often are your customers making a purchase? If it’s only once a year, an app might not be for you - infrequent purchases make the lifetime value of the app low, with potential for high churn.
  • Is it more beneficial for you to make your website move mobile responsive?
  • Is an app just a ‘nice to have’ or will it bring you closer to your business goals? Whether that be brand loyalty, increased revenue or customer loyalty.

The key takeaway is to think about value. Is investing in a mobile app really right for your business? There may be a better way of achieving your goals, such as making sure your website is mobile responsive, saving you both time and budget.