Section 508

April 10th, 2013

Should Retailers Build Mobile Native Apps for Shopping?

Today retailers have taken three approaches to mobile commerce: native apps, responsive design (HTML5), and do nothing.  While do nothing is a valid strategy for retailers that have complex transactions, other retailers are trying to figure out the best way to approach mobile commerce.  The reality is that mobile devices are as likely to influence an in-store purchase as an online purchase.  That said, for retailers with high repeat shopping rates building native apps could be a vital part of their multichannel strategy.  In this case, a duel strategy may be in order – starting with responsive design and building apps that allow for a more interactive shopping experience inside stores.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of native apps:


Pros of native apps

  • Can leverage properties of a phone like GPS, accelerometer and camera, which can add to the cool-factor and utility of your app
  • New customers/users can discover you in app store or Android marketplace
  • The app stays on the phone as a constant reminder of your brand
  • Apps can be used offline
  • Performance can be faster (caveat: some mobile browsers can be faster than native apps due to optimized memory management and performance)
  • Having a native app may meet customer expectations for those shoppers who prefer using apps

Cons of native apps

  • Expensive to develop and maintain across multiple platforms (including updates and bug fixes)
  • App users have to proactively update their apps as well or the user experience can get worse over time
  • Content can’t be shared outside of the native app like it can using the web
  • Apps that generate revenue are subject to a hefty cut taken by the platform owner (iOS and Android)
  • Today, consumers don’t use apps with an extreme level of frequency

This list is not exhaustive, but there are certainly business cases for building a native app. Although apps have more advantages than mobile web at this point in time, the trends are leaning toward more businesses embracing responsive design for cost savings and efficiency of maintaining one experience that serves all devices.

Aside from cost, mobile strategists need to take a serious look at the reality of app usage.

Tags: checklist ecommerce mobile apps native apps retail

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