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Retail: Web-tech brings back the love of an app-free world

Bye-bye mobile apps; innovative retailers put customers (and their budgets) first as web-tech evolves says Valerie Vacante director of Strategy, LiveArea

Do you remember when we lived in an app-free world? The love of mobile web, those peculiar QR codes? Word on the street is that lately more consumers are downloading and buying through mobile apps. This COVID-inspired surge is likely to be short-lived, though, as more retailers invest in web-based connected experiences that are easier for customers to use and, over time, cost less for brands and lead to deeper customer loyalty. Taking a web-tech approach is a win for everyone — consumers and retailers at a time when it’s needed most.

In a recent study by Braze and Wakefield, “83% of consumers said that they planned to shop online as much or more as during the height of the pandemic, which is illustrated by a 62% rise in mobile acquisition (as defined by new users coming into retail and ecommerce apps).”

While there is an interim increase in app use, we believe a decline is imminent — and soon. According to research conducted by Braze and Wakefield, the recent, “wave of new mobile customers doesn’t come without deep challenges: Customers acquired during COVID-19 have an 82% lower retention rate than those acquired during a non-COVID, non-holiday time period.” 

 Consumers simply do not want an app for every single store that they shop at, and looking at the top grossing shopping apps, it shows. According to App Annie, there are zero major retailers included in the top 10 or 20 lists for the highest-grossing shopping apps across both iOS and Android in the United States. Only two of the top 10 free Android shopping apps include major retailers

Similarly, in the UK, there are zero retailer shopping apps featured in the top 20 free iOS apps and only three of the top 20 free Android shopping apps include three major retailers, Lidl Tesco and Argos.

Beyond consumers’ pure needs and wants of an app-free world, retailers that continue to invest in native apps must manage additional product and consumer experience streams as well as app store approval management and additional development teams. This spreads budgets even thinner in a time when resourcefulness and efficiency are at a peak.

According to Gartner, “Consumer app fatigue is forcing application leaders to re-evaluate their approach to mobile web versus mobile apps.” 

Progressive retailers like Debenhams, are veering away from the native app experience and investing in Progressive Web Applications (PWAs.) UK retailer Debenhams’ customer journey time from browsing to purchase was two to four times faster with a 40% increase in mobile revenue and a 20% increase in conversions

“To me, it became clear that PWAs should be the future of software delivery,” – Sam Richard, Developer Advocate, Google

Brands are also rediscovering the beauty of QR codes. Where QR codes were hit or miss a few years back, the technology has moved on. Now, consumers simply scan with their phone, no app needed, and they are taken to their website/experience of choice in a touch-free way. Egoditor, a QR Code generator and marketing company, “has seen a huge increase in adoption, with a 25x increase in signups from restaurants in June compared to February, and 7x increase in signups from hotels.” 

Consumers understand QR codes, they are quick for brands to implement and cost-effective in a critical time where brands are looking to cut costs and reallocate budgets.

Whether it is a PWA, creating a compelling mobile web experience, or embracing the beloved QR code, consumers are looking for a simple connection without the commitment of apps. In a time of uncertainty, it is important now more than ever to create experiences that live where consumers live. 

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