Text: Tom Holmes
‘It’s increasingly clear that we’re entering the Post-PC era’ says Russell Buckley of Eagle Eye Solutions. ‘Most people will be using their mobile as their primary digital device. In emerging markets that’s already happening. Smart retailers are already exploiting this trend and positioning the mobile channel as a critical part of their marketing activity for the future.’
With that in mind, retailers could be forgiven for joining the movement. Nowadays most brands have a mobile presence, usually a website, though many are now launching apps as smart phones become the norm. Jumping on the bandwagon with both feet may not, however, be a good idea.
Looking back at the dot.com boom, a lot of companies launched websites just to have a presence on the Internet. The sites didn’t do anything and weren’t particularly useful. There is a risk of apps becoming like that – around 80 per cent are opened only once, which means that they’re not working for the customer. For retailers, it’s a venture that shouldn’t be rushed without adequate consideration.
Taking a step back and developing a mobile strategy should be the starting point. ‘The first part of the strategy is to optimise their websites for mobile, which is a far more logical starting point for retailers and their customers. Apps can have their place, of course, but it’s probably not the right place to start thinking about mobile activity’ says Buckley.
Peter Gough of ORM echoes those views: ‘If there’s not a clear business case for a native app that really exploits features such as location, real-time data or rich UI interaction then a mobile-optimised site is a better step to take.
‘An app like the location-based app from North Face, that allows users to find their nearest hike and nearest store, gives customers extra functionality, but an app that offers the same services as a mobile website is unnecessary.’
Quite often retailer apps fail because their forecast star rating – the rating the app receives on a download site – isn’t tested. If this rating is three stars (out of five) or lower, it is unlikely to be downloaded, essentially falling at the first hurdle.
‘We did a survey of 5,000 of our early adopters last year and found that 70 per cent of them would not download an app unless it had a ranking of four stars or higher’ says Paul Poutanen, founder and president of Mob4hire.
Mob4hire has almost 55,000 individuals in 150 countries around the world that test apps and mobile websites for function and quality. These are real people using their own handsets, playing with apps and filling out surveys and determining what kind of star rating is appropriate for an app.
This fool-proof method is a great means of finding out how the end user views the product. It’s a wonder more companies don’t do so.
Read the full feature in our October, 2011 edition or in the digital version by clicking here.