We are in the age of the always-on generation, ultra-connected consumers with smart devices where ‘tech neck’ has become an occupational hazard of browsing on your mobile while on the move.
Trains and buses appear to have been taken over by a zombie mobile nation. Just what are we looking at on our devices? How many apps are we using? And what’s the threshold before you just have too many to juggle in your already busy life?
With more than a quarter of online sales in the UK now via mobile [source: eMarketer], and annual mobile consumer spend predicted to reach £19.3 billion within a decade [original source: Barclays Corporate], retailers are rushing to push branded apps and personalised offers and services our way. However, with 70% of apps never opened a second time after being downloaded, the competition for a place on our mobile device has never been harder.
It’s no surprise that the apps consumers use most on a daily basis are messaging, social, music and gaming apps. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all trialling ‘buy buttons’, which look set to take off in 2015 in the US and Asia as brands try to monetise social. Weather, travel, maps and banking also rank highly in our daily app use.
But when it comes to shopping for fashion on a mobile, the market is mixed. Considering the number and types of m-commerce apps available and the amount of hype surrounding them, consumers are largely apathetic. The simple reason for this ‘APPathy’ is that too many apps fail to offer real advantages above shopping on a full e-tail site or in store, or they simply do not work. For example, Snap Fashion and ASAP54 illustrate how shopping by image recognition fails to filter and deliver the desired product.
As well as needing to offer genuine benefits to consumers on the move, fashion apps have yet to be fully exploited in store by retailers. With Wi-Fi and beacon-aided navigation, there’s an opportunity to deliver tailored offers and personalised service, helping turn ‘pre-shopping’ and showrooming into sales. Brands are trialling initiatives, but it’s still very early days for the ‘smart store’.
Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting and successful mobile apps out there making it onto consumers’ devices:
Shopkick is a ‘geocouponing’ US app that recognises and rewards customers with a ‘kick’ upon entering a partner store. In use at Macy’s, American Eagle and Starbucks, it’s great way to reward brand loyalty and increase footfall.
With search, select and buy apps such as Kaleidoscope, Snap Fashion and ASAP54 proving labour intensive, there’s a switch to concierge and community-based apps that make shopping for fashion more rewarding and intuitive.
UK app Mallzee turns your device into a personal shopper, building you a personalised style feed based on your likes and dislikes.
One of the best examples of a crowd-sourced shopping app is from HotUKDeals, where members can post deals that they have found and vote on others’ postings. The app then overlays the deals on a local map so bargain-hunters can see which are in their vicinity.
The Hunt, meanwhile, uses its 3 million users to track down fashion items. Simply post a snap of a fashion item and let the community help you find it. British etailer SirenLondon currently receives 25% of its traffic from The Hunt’s 150,000 strong UK community. This ‘throw the stone’ model is one to watch.
Helping customers locate products in store, aiding navigation and directing personalised product content is big news. To date, only a few stores are actively using the technology – provided by platforms such as Red Ant, Walkbase and Iconeme – though, with brands trialling and testing the waters before making larger investments across their estates. For now, in the UK it’s a case of ‘I have the app but where can I use it?’
If consumer uptake matches the hype, Apple Pay and PayPal Check-in look set to make the debit card a thing of the past – at least in the US, where the archaic swipe and sign process is still the norm. Here in the UK, however, where NFC debit card payment is instant and a card cannot run out of battery life, mobile wallet apps may struggle to break traditional transaction.
By removing the need to queue up to pay, perhaps these mobile wallet apps will also one day spell the end for the physical cash desk. Then there are virtual queuing apps like Qudini (used by House of Fraser and O2 among others), which strike more of a middle ground by allowing customers to continue browsing in store before receiving a text that their order is ready to collect or when they are due to be served. They enhance customer experience without eliminating the face-to-face service element.
Click & Collect and same-day delivery are becoming increasingly sophisticated to meet consumer demands and to compete against the instant gratification of shopping in store. Brands such as Argos, Oasis and Warehouse are gaining customer satisfaction with the Shutl app; currently the world’s fastest delivery option, it has a one-hour delivery window guarantee and a fastest delivery record of just 13 minutes 57 seconds. Following investment from Shutl’s new owner eBay, the app is now available in the US, vying with Amazon’s recently launched Prime Now app that also offers a one-hour delivery service.
Doddle, the ‘click and collect’ parcel service with shops in train stations in and around London, launched an iOS app in November 2014 that sends the customer’s phone a barcode which can be scanned directly in store to collect their delivery, and lets them track the progress of any returns. A clear indicator of consumers’ desire for speedy service that slots neatly into their lifestyles, the mobile service is expected to reach six figure sign-ups in less than three months [source: Monetise].
Sharing fashion finds and gaining peer approval and reviews from fellow fashionistas, bloggers and stylists has spawned a plethora of apps, including Fashion Freax, Snapette, Trendabl and Pose. These have now monetised their offer with buy buttons, while Pose allows its community to trade items with other members.
Simplicity, logical functionality and tangible consumer benefit are the key to a successful app and are those used regularly on a consumer’s handset. Easy user experience was the reason why Zara recently scored highest in a review of high street retailers’ apps by Drapers. Personally, Mr Porter is my go-to app for a fashion fix.
What’s your favourite shopping app? Tweet us at @DalzielandPow
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