How the pandemic transformed mobile apps into the new storefront

By Ari Brandt

How do retailers survive a pandemic when consumer behavior shifts primarily to the home’s convenience and safety? While retailers have adapted and evolved their ecommerce approaches in many ways, the pandemic arguably prompted them to bring mobile commerce solutions to the forefront, and most specifically, their app-based strategies. 88% of time spent on the mobile web happens in apps. Research from Criteo shows apps have three times the conversion of the mobile web. As competition accelerates for the digital dollar, retailers should place their app front-and-center as the main entry point for omnichannel commerce.

App adaptation

Successful apps drive more frequent visits and larger basket sizes but require retailers to invest in a distinct product with custom features and sophisticated analytics. This isn’t limited to national brands or massive omnichannel retailers. A great example of a mid-sized retailer achieving significant mobile growth is Texas grocer H-E-B.

Before the pandemic, the retailer enhanced its app, focusing on features like no-touch digital coupons, self-checkout, in-app donations, and supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) payment integration. H-E-B saw a 1,050% increase in monthly active users once the pandemic began and the company hit its revenue goals significantly ahead of schedule.

Apps can and must go beyond mobile web experiences by incorporating better and more responsive exploration and navigation and enhancing user experience with technologies like 360 views or augmented reality. They also have better flexibility than mobile web when integrating customer service and chat features, whether they connect directly with human customer service or engage automated chatbots that communicate through messaging features.

Apps also provide significant advantages for retention and re-engagement with customers. Push notifications for special offers or abandoned cart messages mitigate friction, drive greater engagement rate versus emails and offer more personalization opportunities. Apps also provide faster and easier ways to customize the user experience than a mobile website. Apps don’t require users to re-login, and they ultimately allow retailers to facilitate a unique user experience that makes shoppers more likely to engage frequently.

How to acquire and keep mobile shoppers

Regardless of your company’s size or category, competition is aggressive to become the choice for shoppers. Over half of the product searches start on Amazon, and customers need a strong reason to use and return to your app. Just as brands have invested for years in driving foot traffic to physical stores, today’s digital retailers need to reinforce shopping behavior through effective user acquisition strategies.

User acquisition (UA) is a cornerstone for the growth of a thriving app business, driving the shopper lifecycle from installation to purchase.

The size of your installed customer base drives mobile commerce success, so companies need a comprehensive and holistic approach to acquisition across social, search, and in-app channels. While search and social have long been table stakes for ecommerce brands, effective UA campaigns include various channels, such as in-app SDK performance solutions, which are a vital channel to reach mobile shoppers. These platforms use pay-for-performance models and sophisticated return-on-ad-spend modeling to help bring down acquisition costs. They also make the most of in-app placements, reaching audiences with creative and interactive ad units across the most popular and highly trafficked app categories, like gaming and entertainment.

The size of your installed customer base drives mobile commerce success, so companies need a comprehensive and holistic approach to acquisition across social, search, and in-app channels. While search and social have long been table stakes for ecommerce brands, effective UA campaigns include various channels, such as in-app SDK performance solutions, which are a vital channel to reach mobile shoppers. These platforms use pay-for-performance models and sophisticated return-on-ad-spend modeling to help bring down acquisition costs. They also make the most of in-app placements, reaching audiences with creative and interactive ad units across the most popular and highly trafficked app categories, like gaming and entertainment.

The future

The combination of an app-optimized experience and sophisticated approaches to user acquisition is essential for mcommerce success. As users retrain their shopping behaviors, apps are likely to further establish themselves as the entry point for all kinds of commerce—whether it’s classic home delivery, click-and-collect, or even contactless in-store shopping.

By focusing on building a superior mobile app experience and reaching shoppers through effective acquisition strategies, retailers can better manage their return on ad spend and their mobile commerce channel’s overall growth. Mobile commerce is expected to account for over half of ecommerce by the end of 2021. The winning retailers will be those who have genuinely moved mobile-first and relocated their storefront into their apps.

ironSource is an Israel-based software company that focuses on developing technologies for app monetization and distribution.

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