Why You Should Give Your Mobile App as Much Attention as Your Smallest Store

October 28, 2013 Pavel Vlahov

This blog originally appeared on The Mobile Retail Blog.


Your mobile app reaches more customers than your smallest stores. Yet most retailers focus more on their least profitable brick-and-mortar location than on their mobile offering.

Enhanced customer satisfaction and engagement, as well as increased social sharing, are just a few reasons why you should pay your app as much, if not more attention, than your smallest store.

But more importantly, a mobile app can bring in significant revenue. A customer survey by ABI Research discovered that of those respondents who had downloaded a retailer’s branded mobile app:

  • 45.8% would make more in-store visits
  • 40.4% would make more purchases
  • 35.8% would talk about their purchasing experiences with friends
  • 30.8% would push their friends to visit the store

These mobile-influenced benefits don’t even account for direct revenue generated from mCommerce. This is no minor factor: one of our retail client’s apps (which launched less than a year ago) already brings in more annual revenue than their smallest store. This is from mCommerce sales only, and does not include mobile-influenced in-store sales.

There is a simple reason why you should pay more attention to your mobile app: ultimately, it helps you generate revenue. With this in mind, I’m going to illustrate the tactics used for deploying mobile on a retail mobile app by comparing them to the tactics used for brick-and-mortar stores.

Choose Where to Deploy

The mantra for successful brick-and-mortar retailers is, “Location, location, location.” An individual store’s exposure to relevant audiences is the single biggest factor in the success or failure of that location (for small retailers, one failed store can bring about the downfall of the whole brand). With this in mind, successful brands choose each store’s location wisely; they carefully consider factors such as the surrounding population, nearby competition, foot traffic, and many others variables. Why would you develop a luxury goods store in a low-budget neighborhood when it has a better chance of thriving in the financial district?

Much like how selecting the location is vital for your brick-and-mortar store’s success, selecting the mobile platform(s) to be available on can determine whether an mCommerce app will engage paying customers. With a brick-and-mortar store, you can choose to have a major store in the heavily-trafficked suburbs and another one in the heart of downtown, just like how you can choose to invest in both iOS and Android. While the platform won’t guarantee users, it only makes sense to be where your customers are. Choose carefully.

Stand Out from the Competition

When a brick-and-mortar retailer wants to acquire more customers, it distributes flyers and coupons and perhaps buys TV, radio, or billboard advertising space.

Based on the same principle of spreading awareness, the corresponding mobile parallel involves the retailer sending messages called push notifications to consumers’ mobile phones. Where coupons and flyers talk about special sales or discounts, push notifications similarly contain information that helps consumers save money or generate value of some sort.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is another tactic to draw users to your mobile app. Similar to choosing a platform, ASO is essentially like investing in an area that’s heavily trafficked by potential customers. (Any consumer who is searching for your app is significantly more interested in downloading compared to people who are simply browsing an app store.) As this Forrester study shows, 63% of downloaded apps are discovered through users generally browsing the app store. This means capturing consumers’ attention in a way that makes you stand out: paying attention to your name, description, keywords, and screenshots, amongst various other factors

For example, have a look at Strava Run’s app. Its full title is, “Strava Run – GPS Running, Training and Cycling Workout Tracker,” which clearly tells potential users its unique proposition. It also creates more opportunities for consumers to find the app when searching for any of those keywords.

Much like how brick-and-mortar window displays are designed to capture the eye, your app’s screenshots in the app store should be designed to entice potential users. Which screenshot appears most, and least, interesting out of these four?


Create an Engaging Atmosphere

Now that you’ve opened a store on prime real estate, you’re seeing decent foot traffic. Did you achieve this by leaving up the same decor that the previous tenant had left behind? Heck, no! Every successful retailer knows better than to neglect the interior design. Many studies on atmospherics have shown that selecting the right colors, layout, scent, lighting, and music can positively affect customers’ shopping patterns. There are also stores that neglect these considerations; they exist in dingy environments, feature messy and poor product placement, and have lines that go out the wazoo. Unless the retailer is named Wal-Mart, this usually leads to their own demise.

User experience/user interface (UX/UI) is the mobile equivalent to interior design. When done well, UX/UI compels users to repeatedly engage with your app, thereby building brand awareness and loyalty. It could also generate tons of revenue – for example, in the first week they launched their redesign, Nordstrom-owned retailer Hautelook saw a 20% increase in sales.

When developing UX/UI, don’t neglect navigation, layout, and customer service. Good brick-and-mortar retailers make their stores as easy to navigate as possible. Top-selling merchandise is at eye level, complementary items are close to each other, aisles are free of clutter, and staff are trained to assist with customer inquiries

Replicating this experience in the mobile world means creating an intuitive navigation, a catalogue that arranges items in a way that makes sense, and using algorithms to understand the user and personalize product recommendations accordingly.

Simplify Purchasing

Every brick-and-mortar retailer has supporting infrastructure such as POS systems, inventory management, and other crucial solutions that power day-to-day operations. Just because these solutions fall into the background doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. A mobile POS could help retailers cut wait times in lines and assist in preventing showrooming.

On mobile, minimizing loading time, integrating with all payment providers, and streamlining the checkout process pays off in dividends. For example, as this study conducted by Harris highlights, 47% of participants failed to complete purchases on their mobile devices because the checkout process took too long. If you saw this proportion of people abandoning checkout lines because of lack of infrastructure, would you let the issue persist?

Closing Thoughts

The fundamental principles that contribute to the success of brick-and-mortar retailers also apply to mCommerce solutions. Hopefully, this illustration has helped you figure out which areas you need to focus on to differentiate your mobile experience from your competitors’ offerings. Whether it’s to increase in-store sales through influencing your users with mobile devices, or to drive more general revenue through mCommerce, a mobile solution holds significant potential for your retail success.


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