What Customers Expect from E-Commerce Apps
By Kristen Herhold
In 1983, at a conference in Aspen, Colo., a young Steve Jobs gave an innovative presentation in which he dreamed of a new digital distribution system that would let customers download software over phone lines. Jobs envisioned apps even before mobile phones were mainstream and when smartphones seemed unimaginable.
Three decades later, there are millions of apps available, all with the touch of a screen, and they've become part of everyday life. On average, people touch their phones 2,617 times and spend 145 minutes on their phones every day. So, what are all these people looking at?
Of course, social media and other forms of entertainment are the primary reasons for mobile device addiction, but e-commerce apps are becoming increasingly popular. Clutch, a leading B2B ratings and reviews firm, recently conducted a survey of 505 e-commerce app users and discovered that consumers want more innovative features on apps. Here are the key findings:
Top four reasons consumers use e-commerce apps:
- Receive deals and offers (68 percent)
- Flexibility to buy at any time (64 percent)
- Compare products and prices (62 percent)
- Save time at the store (54 percent)
Innovative features consumers want on e-commerce apps:
- Discounts on products similar to past purchases (85 percent)
- Purchasing directly through the app (84 percent)
- Discounts from push notifications (84 percent)
- Syncing loyalty rewards (81 percent)
- Product recommendation (70 percent)
- In-store personalization (59 percent)
- Augmented reality (54 percent)
- Social media integration (41 percent)
Saving time and money, flexibility and making an educated purchase are the main selling points for consumers to download and integrate these apps into their shopping habits.
Present and Future E-Commerce App Functionality
While some of these app features may be making a splash among consumers, their appeal and usability are more than just passing trends; these features look to remain part of the e-commerce industry for the foreseeable future.
Making App Use a Habit
The goldmine of any company is for consumers to make its product or service a daily habit. The innovation behind app usage isn't getting your customers to do something new; it's finding out what they're already doing and making it easier. This happens when a simple, single task is completed and friction is removed, such as ordering food. Rather than ordering and waiting at a restaurant's counter, many companies are offering in-app ordering.
"The next wave of innovation that's taking the world by storm is mobile ordering," Andrew Gazdecki, CEO of Bizness Apps, said. "That's because of how easy it is. You walk into Starbucks, and it's waiting for you. People are looking to get things [quickly] and ... conveniently ... When apps are able to tap in and leverage an activity that you do that frequently and give you value on something you're already going to do, that's huge."
Augmented Reality (AR)
This concept has been around for a while, but AR has only recently become available on mainstream apps. AR allows customers to picture what a new couch would look like in their family room. Customers can also take a picture of a product on their smartphone so the app can find similar items in its inventory. The purpose behind AR is to remove any excuses or risks of buyer's remorse that a customer may have so that they follow through with the purchase.
"Augmented reality is in a really exciting place right now," Dan Healy, Chief Operating Officer of Prolific Interactive, said. "It's a great way to show how the mobile experience can literally exist in real life and help drive confidence to the user that the purchase they are making is a sound one."
There is so much noise in our society, anything that isn't personalized goes right into the virtual trash file. The core purpose of personalization is to engage and connect with customers by catering to their specific buying or lifestyle patterns.
"You typically hear companies wanting to focus on personalization, targeting geolocation around stores; that's super interesting," said Healy. "What they're trying to understand is how can they increase engagement, and how can they drive more revenue. How can you move the needle from a revenue perspective, and how can you keep your most loyal users engaged? The more forward-thinking companies are saying 'we get that' and 'we want to do that,' and they're committed to building that first version of a high-quality product that is fundamentally sound and focuses on a seamless checkout experience. But they're also thinking about how can they test new initiatives."
Deals and Steals
The top reasons consumers have e-commerce apps is to save money. It was the number one reason they download an app and the number one thing they would like to see more of with future apps. But this is no surprise; who doesn't want to save more money?
7-Eleven allows customers to scan their own coffee, and every seventh cup is free. Macy's app sends deal alerts when customers visit the physical store.
"Geotargeting is also a possibility, based on when customers are in particular locations and might be more open to buying," said Nik Sanghvi, head of U.S. sales and business development at Robosoft Technologies. "A simple example can be an app identifying when users are on a train and are likely to have some free time on their hands. We can send them a targeted notification at that point in time, with a strong deal on an impulse purchase. This leads them to get into the app, buy that item, and be given upselling or cross-selling features."
An app is only as successful as a company's marketing strategy.
"What we're seeing for a trend in e-commerce apps is that mobile is becoming one arm of the digital spectrum," Healy said. "I can't reinforce that enough. It's not about having an app; it's about having a digital strategy. And how a mobile product fits into that and supports the site so that when you get home and you want to sit down, that pass off is seamless. You're now shopping from your computer or your iPad in front of the TV or from the TV itself."
Most of app usage has been for price comparisons and advertising sales. However, Amazon is setting the example by sending product-recommendation push notices.
"Until now, e-commerce has largely been about wanting to buy a specific item, searching for it and making the purchase at the lowest price possible. Going forward, much of the evolution needs to happen around recommendations and curation," said Sanghvi.
E-commerce app technology lives in a unique world where complex infrastructure is created to provide frictionless features for simple usage all while appealing to the emotional and sensible parts of the human brain.