top of page

How ‘appy are mobile users?

Consumers are notoriously fickle and, in today’s world, armed with a mobile phone and more data, they are empowered and emboldened to make a switch. Brand and retailer loyalty is at an all time low as online shoppers are trying to get the best deal in terms of price and convenience.

So if this is the case, why do retailers keep on trying to push consumers to use their mobile app? According to research conduct by commerce platform Mozu, 50.3% of retailers believe that consumers ranked having a mobile application as “Important” or “Very Important” while shoppers didn’t rank it in their top list of priorities. Retailers ranked it as one of the top three needs they believe consumers want and customers ranked other criteria such as offers, discounts and product recommendations delivered through their mobile device as part of their top three. Hmmm, there seems to be a mismatch.

Of course apps benefit retailers because in an app they have a captive audience and they control the ecosystem. Within the confines of an app the retailer controls the consumers’ user experience and surfing among competitors is difficult. Also, it is highly unlikely you will be served a competitors’ ad within the app.

It only makes sense to be loyal to a brand’s app if it makes your life easier and you’re a frequent user, like a train schedule app or a voucher/discount app site. As an occasional shopper, would it make sense for you to download an app and shop through it? Probably not, but if you could tap into a shopping ecosystem that delivers convenience, discounts, predictive suggestions and ease of use across multiple retailers, then this conversation just got interesting.

An ecosystem is crucial

Consumers are suffering from app fatigue. According to a report by Forrester, US & UK consumers use an average of 24 apps per month, but spend more than 80% of their time in just 5 apps. The solution is building an ecosystem rather than discrete apps.

Better yet, weave this ecosystem into a consumer’s regular mobile usage habits rather than having to go into an app. For example, building it into maps, social media or instant messaging. This is already being done, but not on a sizeable scale. For example, in South Korea, the company OK Cashbag aggregates product promotions and loyalty points for over 50,000 merchants in one easy-to-use app. (

Retention tactics are vital

Developing an ecosystem or plugging an app into an existing one is only half of the battle, the app developer must consider retention and how to continue add value to the consumer. After all, the more a consumer uses an app, the more embedded it becomes in their habitual on-the-go lifestyle. This involves understanding why a consumer uses the app and then both improving on that experience as well as providing personalised push notifications based on the users’ habits.

Tech company Urban Airship talks about the mobile engagement loop in which a brand has to sustain and grow the value of the relationship between the consumer and the app in a continual loop of conversion and retention tactics. They discuss a “branding halo” that occurs after several conversion-to-retention cycles.

Consumers live active and complex lives and mobile technology is intended to facilitate managing a host of activities all at once and while in motion. Mobile apps are meant to facilitate that process and if an app doesn’t deliver on this value, then consumers won’t be too ‘appy.

Greta Paa-Kerner (@gretapk) is a senior lecturer at Bucks Business School and an independent consultant helping companies modernise their marketing strategy. She has guest lectured about marketing at various international universities and she is also a tutor at the Institute of Digital Marketing (IDM). Visit her blog and LinkedIn profile at

bottom of page