Changes in Retail Mobile App Usage and How They Affect Holiday Shopping

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Posted: September 27, 2016


Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive, the best in-app communications software for app publishers. 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.


The number of consumers using mobile apps is growing exponentially, and customers who use your mobile apps are often your most valuable. Alibaba recently revealed they make more money from their mobile customers (all 427 million of them!) than from their non-mobile customers. Alibaba isn’t alone. eBay announced that $9.5 billion of their sales in Q2 of 2016 (or 45% of their GMV) came from mobile. Even more impressive, 57% of all of eBay’s Q2 sales were touched by mobile at some point.

Alibaba and eBay are just two examples of how big of an impact mobile customers have on retail. With all of the revenue opportunity mobile presents, the importance of understanding consumers’ mobile behavior is clear.

Mobile Retail Shopping

To help us understand how the use of retail mobile apps is evolving, and how mobile impacts retailers’ entire businesses, Apptentive recently conducted a consumer survey of 252 people between the ages of 18-65 who use iPhone and Androids daily. In today’s post, we highlight some survey results, along with the implications for retailers as we approach the holiday shopping season.

The Way Consumers Use Retail Mobile Apps is Evolving

By now, it’s no surprise that consumers use retail mobile apps. Our survey revealed that 88% of consumers use them. It’s also no surprise that consumers use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store. 55% of people who use retail mobile apps said they use them while shopping in-store. However, the reasons consumers use retail mobile apps is shifting.

The ability to make purchases directly in apps has been around for several years, which has given consumers time to embrace the new channel. Now that consumers are comfortable using mobile apps to buy, the number of people who are doing so is increasing rapidly. Retail sales on smartphones grew by 54% between 2014 and 2015.

But while consumers still use apps to enhance their in-app experience, that’s not all they’re using them for. People are actually using retail apps to shop. Now that so many purchases are made via mobile apps, retailers need to make sure their mobile experiences are living up to consumer expectations.

What Consumers Expect from Retail Apps

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, the world is more connected than ever. This has transformed our shopping experiences and our expectations of the brands we love. Since consumers use retail mobile apps while shopping in-store, a number of retailers have capitalized on and contributed to increasing expectations by finding ways to seamlessly connect their digital and physical experiences. Now that consumers are using mobile apps to actually make purchases, not just supplement their in-store shopping experiences, retailers need to invest in creating standalone mobile customer experiences now.

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, retailers can beef up their mobile strategies to support consumer expectations. Our survey found 65% of people who use retail mobile apps plan on using  them for at least some of their holiday shopping, and 10% of consumers plan on using retail apps for almost all of their holiday shopping.This includes consumers who plan on making purchases in the app, and using apps to aid their in-store shopping needs.

Many retailers have mastered the in-app experience (such as Amazon, Starbucks, and eBay), so it’s extremely apparent to consumers when the experience is bad. Consumers have little patience for bad mobile experiences, and if a mobile app doesn’t live up to their expectations, customers will ditch the app in favor of retailers who have great mobile experiences.

It’s never too late to continue investing in mobile, but investment in retail mobile user experience is more important now than ever before. Time to revisit your strategy before the holiday shopping rush begins!