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Mobile Matters

Why Your Retail Store Needs a Mobile App This Holiday Season

Why Your Retail Store Needs a Mobile App This Holiday Season

by: | September 19, 2012

Labor Day is behind us, the National Football League is back and the leaves are beginning to turn. If you’re a retailer, those aren’t just signs of autumn’s arrival—they’re also urgent reminders that the holiday shopping season is fast approaching.

Merchants can expect any number of customers to leverage their smartphones to make purchases, research products, and compare prices; the difference between this year and last is that mobile commerce is no longer a novelty—it’s now an essential component of the shopping experience, and retailers who fail to embrace that paradigm shift could face a holiday sales period that’s anything but merry.

Eighty-two percent of tech-savvy mobile application users say there are major benefits to shopping on smartphones and tablets, according to new data issued by app technology provider Apigee. Bargain hunting reigns supreme: Half of respondents cite browsing for deals wherever they are among m-commerce’s biggest advantages, 48 percent name in-store pricing comparison opportunities, 38 percent point to opportunities to redeem digital coupons, and 27 percent cite the potential to earn in-app loyalty points.

But shoppers are also identifying compelling new mobile opportunities that go beyond saving money. For example, 14 percent said m-commerce affords them the opportunity to buy products that are too personal or too embarrassing to purchase in brick-and-mortar stores or on their work computer—small businesses in verticals outside the mainstream could leverage mobile apps to drive sales and attract consumers who’ve never felt comfortable frequenting them in the past. Another 25 percent of respondents told Apigee that mobile services allow them to shop for items without their spouse or significant other knowing—a huge selling point as the holidays draw closer. In fact, 57 percent of respondents are considering using their phones to complete their seasonal shopping chores.

Consumers are now so reliant on mobile shopping tools that 54 percent of respondents say retailers without dedicated apps could face serious repercussions. Thirty percent say that without an app to check inventory, they could waste a trip to the store in search of an item the merchant doesn’t carry. Twenty-five percent fear they could miss out on the retailer’s best deals without an app to guide them. And, perhaps most compelling of all, 17 percent believe retailers without apps seem old-fashioned—a remarkably high percentage given that mobile commerce was almost totally off the consumer radar until just a few years ago.

Don’t forget the average American smartphone owner is well off (68 percent hail from households with an earning income of $75,000 or more) and well-educated (60 percent are college graduates): This is not a demographic your small business wants to ignore or alienate. But the longer you fail to properly address the mobile commerce opportunity, the more you risk losing this customer segment to forward-thinking competitors—and once your store is out of fashion, it will soon be out of business.

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Posted in: E-Commerce, Geolocation, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Development, Mobile Matters, SMS

About the Writer:

Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of the FierceMobileContent and FierceDeveloper e-newsletters as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and the website All Music Guide. Additional credits include efforts for publications including Rolling Stone, Wax Poetics and No Depression, along with liner notes for a number of album releases. He lives in Chicago.

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