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New Data Shows 57% of Shoppers Prefer Mobile Apps to Other Channels

Rahul Khosla

Author Rahul Khosla
Published On May 04, 2021

Why are so many companies (retail, consumer goods, grocery, etc.) investing in mobile e-commerce applications?

To put it simply, they’re following the money. Statista projects e-commerce sales from mobile devices will surpass $432 billion (with a “b”) by 2022. That’s a lot of cheddar.

Generally speaking, retailers are able to provide a more robust user experience via mobile app than mobile website and app users tend to be more valuable customers, so it naturally follows that businesses are looking to build out their mobile apps.

But if you work in mobile application development, retail, or just use your phone to buy things, you know that mobile apps are not pass/fail—just because an organization has an app doesn’t mean people will like it or even use it, for that matter.

But why? What is the reason some mobile apps for retail increase conversion rate, lifetime customer value, and customer satisfaction while others… don’t.

As a mobile app design and development consultancy, we feel we have a pretty good read on what makes a good app, but we wanted to be sure. So we asked.

We surveyed 400 app users to find out the details behind their mobile shopping practices to understand nuances in app design and functionality that contribute to sales, or unfortunately, contribute to app deletion.

A few questions that we were seeking to answer included:

  • What are the perceived benefits of using a mobile app for shopping?
  • What mobile app features do users like/dislike in apps designed for e-commerce?
  • What causes users to delete an app or leave a negative review?
  • What effect, if any, has the COVID-19 pandemic had on mobile app shopping?

That said, let’s dive in.

How Are Consumers Using Retail Mobile Apps?

“The 400 consumers we surveyed overwhelmingly use apps with the intent to shop and purchase, with 74% of respondents claiming that was the most-used feature.”

The modern buyer’s journey is more like a whirlpool of digital touches than a linear path to purchase. Consumers have multiple channels for discovery (Instagram, ads, TV, etc.) as well as purchase (in-store, online, mobile app).

This got us wondering:

What role do mobile apps play in the purchase process?

The 400 consumers we surveyed overwhelmingly use apps with the intent to shop and purchase, with 74% of respondents claiming that was the most-used feature. People also ranked viewing product photos and reading reviews high on their list, indicating a high-degree of shopping intent.

Lower down the list of desired app features include managing loyalty memberships and enhancing their in-store experience.

Given that mobile apps contribute to such high-intent buying actions from consumers, it may not be a bad time to look into mobile app development that will create ROI.

01-Which-features-do-you-use-on-mobile-apps

Mobile Apps Are More Convenient for Shopping

“57.5% of consumers we surveyed claimed that mobile apps are more convenient than other channels for shopping. ”

 

At the cellular level, humans are designed to take the path of least resistance. Often, as in the case of diet and exercise, this can have negative effects. But as a retailer or product manager, you can absolutely use this feature of human nature to your advantage.

57.5% of consumers we surveyed claimed that mobile apps are more convenient than other channels for shopping.

When you think about mobile app use in practice and zoom in a bit, the convenience factors start to pop off the page:

  • Typically, users stay logged into apps, meaning they don’t have to type in passwords. Or, they can use their fingerprint.
  • Popular apps are famous for reading user actions, determining preferences, and offering increased functionality as a result.
  • Most users have securely stored credit card info on their mobile devices via Apple Pay or Google Wallet, making payment a breeze.
  • Information is presented in bite-sized form, catering to a shorter attention span.
  • Communications (flash sales, delivery statuses, etc.) are delivered instantly via push notifications—easy to read and move on.

This is no happy accident, either. App developers are keenly aware that convenience is a major factor for app download, use, and transactions. And our research supports this. In a multiple-select question, users indicated the following:

02-What-do-like-about-using-mobile-apps-for-your-shopping-needs

“When an app offers the features consumers love, 86% of consumers state their loyalty to that brand will increase. App UX is highly important to a brand’s overall loyalty goals!”

When breaking down the data by age, gender, and income, we found some additional insights worth sharing:

  • Men are 10% more likely to consider convenience an important factor for why they choose apps
  • Younger consumers (16-34) were 19% more likely to choose mobile apps because of the personalized experiences they have on app than older consumers (35+)
  • Low income users (annual income < $50,000) are more likely to prioritize smart wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay

Key Takeaway

Convenience is king when it comes to mobile apps for retail. Make sure your app makes the customer’s life easier.

Consumer Turn-Offs for
Mobile Apps

The data is pretty clear on what consumers like about using mobile apps for shopping (convenience), but what about what they don’t like? What causes users to delete apps from their phones or worse, leave a negative review?

By far, the largest pain point with mobile apps is that they can’t see the products in person, which isn’t really the app’s fault, but still a good piece of info. Take a look at the following list of responses (multiple select) that illustrate the issues users perceive with mobile apps for shopping.

03-What-do-you-dislike-about-using-a-mobile-app-for-your-shopping-needs

Interesting note on gender differences:

  • Men’s top complaint with mobile apps is that the screen is too small.
  • Women’s top complaint with mobile apps is that they can’t touch, feel, smell, hear the product.

There’s not much app developers can do about the individual size of a user’s screen, there are design considerations that can be taken into account to combat this common objection. Additionally, note that 35% of respondents indicated that apps do not provide enough product info.

While it goes without saying that UX is absolutely critical to the success of your mobile app, there were a few interesting insights from our survey:

  • The most common issue in an app’s user experience is poor organization (27%), followed by poor visual design (17%).
  • 14% of consumers claimed that buttons that are too small or hard to click are their most common objection
  • Requiring too many clicks to purchase accounted for 12% of total responses to the #1 problem users encounter in apps for retail

Negative app reviews can kill your discoverability and conversion rate. We found that a number of issues can lead to a poor app review. Consumers indicated that poor organization would be their #1 cause to leave a negative review (44%), followed by apps where data doesn’t save between sessions (35%).

When consumers find issues with too many clicks to purchase, poor search functionality, or poor filtering options, they are all more likely to delete an app altogether in addition to leaving a poor review.

Lesson here: When it comes to mobile apps, take your product design very seriously.

“Consumers indicated that poor organization would be their #1 cause to leave a negative review (44%), followed by apps where data doesn’t save between sessions (35%).”

A Note About COVID-19

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically influenced shopper behavior. E-commerce shopping has soared and delivery services have thrived in an environment where in-person shopping was extremely limited.

This also had a large effect on app usage, according to our research.

64.5% of consumers we surveyed claimed they are using mobile apps slightly or significantly more as a result of the pandemic. Users reported feeling safer by using apps instead of in-person shopping, obviously, but also didn’t seem to miss much about their in-store experience. Does this signal a new wave of app usage, delivery, and buy-online-pickup-in-store behavior?

Related reading: Post-Pandemic Retail: Here's What Shopping Will Look Like After COVID-19

As retailers continue to operate in the ‘new normal’ of post-pandemic life, expect a rise in mobile app usage.

We’d like to extend a sincere ‘thank-you’ to everyone who participated in our study. Consumer insights like these help app developers everywhere design products that serve both the organization and the customers they support.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything about how to keep a retail business going, it’s that shoppers will continue to look for convenience, even during the most extreme situations. Retailers and app developers alike should continue to look to deliver seamless shopping experiences to their customers, and that means making sure they’re able to shop from their mobile devices.

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