Benefit 1: Mobile app/site users are more likely to buy today

Mobile shopping apps are a powerful tool for strengthening bonds between shoppers and stores and for getting cash registers to ring. Nielsen demonstrated the power of mobile apps in its August 2012 study, finding that 47 percent of U.S. smartphone owners used a shopping app in June 2012, accessing the app 17 times during the month on average. The Nielsen survey also points out the level of diversity that exists in shopping apps; out of the 10 most popular mobile shopping apps, three come from online retailers reaching for mobile sales (eBay Mobile, Amazon Mobile, eBay RedLaser), three offer discounts and deals (Groupon, LivingSocial, SavingStar Grocery eCoupons), two are from retailers (Walgreens, Target), one provides alliance awards across participating retailers (shopkick), and one is a cloud-based family shopping list (Out of Milk Shopping List). Amazon Mobile, eBay Mobile, and Groupon played to the largest audiences with 12 to 13 million users each. Shopkick, No. 4 in audience count with five million users, schooled the field on user engagement with two hours and 37 minutes of average usage during the month, with No. 2 eBay Mobile behind with one hour and four minutes, and No. 3 Out of Milk Shopping List leading the rest of the also-rans with only 31 minutes of engagement during the month.

Table 1: Nielsen’s top 10 shopping apps for June 2012 (U.S. smartphones)

Rank

Application

Unique audience

Average time spent

(hh:mm:ss)

1

eBay Mobile

13,161,000

1:04:02

2

Amazon Mobile

12,122,000

0:18:39

3

Groupon

11,942,000

0:21:16

4

shopkick

5,000,000*

2:37:00*

5

LivingSocial

4,349,000

0:09:10

6

Walgreens

2,810,000

0:08:07

7

Target

2,215,000

0:07:53

8

RedLaser

1,889,000

0:04:10

9

Out of Milk Shopping List

1,735,000

0:31:30

10

SavingStar Grocery eCoupons

1,573,000

0:06:42

 

*As revised by Nielsen in December 2012                            Source: Lamberth & Associates

Engagement matters, particularly when the engagement takes place inside a retail store, according to a November 2012 holiday shopping report from Deloitte. Shoppers who use their smartphones while they are inside a store are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase from that retailer. If they use a store’s mobile app or website while they’re inside the store, they are 33 percent more likely to buy on that day. This is another reason why shopkick’s engagement stats are so impressive; until recently, shopkick’s app was designed to be used almost exclusively in or near participating retailers, so those two hours and 37 minutes of engagement were mostly spent where they mattered the most. Shopkick recently updated its smartphone app and released an iPad version to support at-home shopping and browsing, including the ability to create a wish list and be reminded to look at those items when the shopper visits the retailer’s store.

Shoppers expect in-store connectivity

In-store cellular signal boosters or Wi-Fi networks can give shoppers a robust data experience that supports their mobile shopping and social networking tendencies while also meeting their expectations. “Consumers are coming to expect connectivity,” Aaron Emigh, chief technology officer of shopkick, told GigaOM during a recent interview. “They expect [wireless] service to be available and may blame the retailer if it’s not. They want to be able to use their mobile devices the way they want to while in the retail location.”

Retailers helping shoppers get online with in-store Wi-Fi networks include JCPenney, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sam’s Club, and Target. “It’s where guests are going and where we need to be,” Target spokesman Eddie Baeb told CNN in December. “We love showrooming when we’re the ones booking the sales.” Target finished installing Wi-Fi at its 1,780 stores last fall.

Do shoppers use in-store Wi-Fi networks? That answer is mixed, but the trend is growing. Even though most retailers do not promote their in-store Wi-Fi networks, customers find them anyway by using the Wi-Fi finder capabilities built into most smartphones. Data-hungry shoppers who might otherwise be reluctant to eat into their cellular data caps will likely log in; plus, they may need a network boost in cavernous retail environments in which cellular signals may be weak or non-existent.