From The Editor | February 14, 2013

Mobile App Madness: Two DOs And Two DON'Ts For Retailers

Matt Pillar, editor in chief

By Matt Pillar, editor in chief

Last December, U.S. consumers downloaded 1.3 billion apps for their Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices, according to XYO. While that stat is compelling in itself, what’s more exciting for you is that we’re not talking about downloads of Angry Birds here. Flurry Analytics tells us consumers are downloading—and spending more time in—retail-centric applications. It measured a 274% overall increase in time spent in shopping app downloads from December 2011 to December 2012, which more than doubled the overall app average.

Flurry Chart

In light of the rabid consumer appetite for mobile apps—and, more specifically, their penchant for a good shopping application—here are a handful of do’s and don’ts for the retail mobile channel marketer.

DO develop mobile applications, as many as you can afford to and as quickly as possible. There’s no more direct path to influence than the mobile device, and the retail-specific research above—coupled with the fact that the average smartphone user has 41 apps on their phone right now (Nielsen)—proves their relevance.

DON’T limit yourself by taking the quickest path to go-live. Developing Web-based apps in HTML5 will get your app to market fast, and in a mobile OS-agnostic way. But with each new device release, consumers have greater expectations for the mobile app experience. If you write your app in HTML5, it certainly won’t accommodate all the coolest new functions of the user’s device of choice (i.e. multi-touch and voice commands), which is sure to fall short of the customer experience expectation. Consider building native apps that are purpose-built for the devices that run them.

DO take advantage of new tools designed to ease the development and modification of native apps. The cost and complexity of native app development and management have both dropped dramatically thanks to new tools that bring an Omniture-like (i.e. graphical, drag-and-drop) user interface and capabilities to the mobile application development and modification world. Check out www.usartisan.com, for example.

DON’T “set it and forget it.” The incredible rate of mobile app adoption is akin to a marketer’s gold rush. The ability to engage consumers in this intensely personal way on a device they consider an extension of self—while very powerful—is fool’s gold compared to the deep, rich vein of customer intelligence that results from the 44 billion mobile apps consumers will have downloaded by 2016 (ABI Research). Don’t let that intelligence gather dust in a server room somewhere like your CRM data did for much of the 1990’s. You can tap into that data to feed your understanding of cross-channel customer behavior, and to guide modifications to your apps that drive even better consumer engagement.

Mobile app mania is here to stay, and those apps are the new hotbed of opportunity for retail marketers. Getting your app(s) to market quickly is important, but getting them right is an imperative.