Mobile Apps for Retail: So Much More than an Additional Sales Channel

The Rise of Mobile Commerce as a Dominant Sales Channel

Black Friday 2016 was a record year for retailers and was a historic day for mobile shopping. “Adobe’s final numbers indicate that Black Friday surpassed estimates, with $3.34 billion — 21.6 percent growth, year-over-year. Mobile accounted for $1.2 billion, a 33 percent increase from the year before.” These numbers indicate that mobile can no longer be viewed as an ancillary strategy for retailers but must become a consistent and well thought out anchor point of their broader customer engagement strategy. By making mobile a focal point of their customer engagement strategy, retailers can gain access to the $320 billion mobile commerce market in 2017.

However, there’s been some consternation from retailers surrounding the conversion numbers on mobile, as compared to desktops. TechCrunch, in their Black Friday coverage, writes, “What’s interesting, however, is that smartphones don’t drive as many conversions as tablets and desktops. While conversions were up overall, smartphone conversations were at 1.9 percent, compared with tablets at 3.7 percent, and desktops at 4 percent. For comparison’s sake, holiday averages are 1.3 percent, 2.9 percent, and 3.2 percent, for phones, tablets, and desktops, respectively.” So while retail is driving a lot of revenue opportunity within the industry, companies are still struggling to figure out how to convert shoppers in this channel.

SandBox Commerce believes that this stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of mobile’s role in the shopping experience. Obviously, mobile does offer retailers another sales channel that can be effective in increasing sales and increasing engagement amongst a brand’s most loyal followers. The stats are compelling that purchases made through mobile apps on average have 40% higher order values and convert at 3x mobile websites. Apps also act as the missing piece on mobile as it relates to conversion. Features such as one touch checkout, mobile payment solutions such as Apple and Android Pay, loyalty, push notifications, etc provide a clear, personalized path towards purchasing not offered by other mobile mediums such as mobile websites. However, increased sales and conversions amongst mobile shoppers isn’t the only reason a retail brand should adopt a mobile app strategy.

Beyond Sales — Customer Engagement Experiences in the Mobile Era

As the image above suggests, customers have multiple pathways available to them as they advance along the purchasing journey with a retailer. There are brick and mortar stores, social media, digital storefronts and websites, mobile apps, etc. Therefore, it is important for retailers to help customers navigate these paths by maintaining strong consistency in message across channels and delineating how those channels interrelate. SandBox Commerce believes that mobile apps can act as a cornerstone of this omnichannel retail world. In order to do this, retailers must begin to think of mobile apps as more than just an additional sales channel.

We believe that apps offer the opportunity for retailers to build a complete, cohesive and consistent view of their customers and can use mobile apps to strengthen their other channels. The mobile channel can collect more data on a user than any other channel in a retailer’ arsenal. With mobile you know a user’s demographic information because of social authentication, social data about a customer’s friends, their location, and their personalized shopping habits, among much more. Retailers can collect this data via the mobile app and share it consistently with their eCommerce presence and retail shops. According to the Rethinking Retail Study by Infosys, 67% of US customers expect retailers to have a consistent view of them as a customer — both from online and in-store purchase histories. Consistency extends across a number of factors: product availability across all channels, personalization options across channels, etc — this consistency extends to customer service, loyalty programs and more. Consistency in experience is just one reason why mobile apps can strengthen a retailer’s omnichannel offering.

Beyond consistency, mobile apps offer consumers the ability to “window shop in the digital era.” The infographic below shows how consumers use a mobile app while shopping.

This chart shows that in many ways it’s extremely likely that a shopper consults their mobile app at some point in the buying process. Reviews, loyalty information, product availability, browsing, getting store locations, etc are all examples of why a smartphone user might use an app but still make the purchase in the retail store or on the retailer’s website. And this is the ultimate point — as long as the conversion happens, it doesn’t matter in which channel it happens. As long as the information gather a consumer is doing on a smartphone and in a mobile app leads to a purchase than the mobile app has done its job telling the brand’s consistent story and messaging.

Lastly, beyond consistency and information gathering, mobile apps offer the most effective way for a retailer to have a conversation with their customer today. Retailers can offer easy, unified access to phone, email, text, video and chat support. Services like Intercom and can offer one click access within any screen in the app to a retailer’s support team. Push notifications are one of the most effective tools for a marketing team to send messages to consumers about the latest product lines, promotions and personalized offerings. Push notifications convert at 54% higher rate than emails do. Mobile offers retailers the ability to take their communication from the mass marketing to individuated marketing level based on the data they collect. Because retailers are hitting a user with the right message at the right time, mobile offers the most effective and personalized way of interacting with a consumer.

SandBox Commerce in 2017: Beyond App Sales — Mobile Marketing Automation for Retail

SandBox Commerce spent 2016 building out the easiest way for a retailer to take their current eCommerce store and convert it into native apps for both iOS and Android that actually engage and convert shoppers. We delivered on our promise to allow retailers to build their own mobile app, without needing to know a line of code, in less than a week that costs as little as $500/month. These apps rival the quality you’d get by hiring an internal team or going to an external app development agency. By being able to get an app up and running so quickly and cost effectively, retailers are able to focus on what they do best — telling their brand’s story and selling products.

In 2017, we wanted to further enhance our retailer’s ability to tell their story in today’s mobile era. Therefore, while continuing to deliver features that enhance your customer’s experience on mobile, SandBox Commerce will be building out the world’s most advanced mobile retail marketing automation system. We will deliver actionable data and insights we collect from the mobile app back to retailers so they can improve push notification conversions, offer more personalized shopping experiences to their consumers and make smarter decisions on which products they should be selling and when. We hope you join us on this mission to bring mobile commerce to retailers worldwide and democratize access to the tools the largest retailers are using to win!

Comment below or reach out to if you want to chat!

Ryan C. Smith

Head of Product — SandBox Commerce