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Navigating the app roadmap

Mobile apps enhance the usability and connectivity of smartphones, forming an important facet of the digital revolution. Retail apps grab a minor share of the overall time consumers spend on apps, but viable models of success have emerged: utilitarian apps that drive customers to interact with products and services and experiential apps that deepen engagement among targeted, valuable audiences. Best-in-class brands drive app downloads and usage at different digital touchpoints – from app store search to mobile sites – and follow through with premium app features that support high retention. 

The third Gartner L2 ‘Intelligence Report: Mobile 2019’ assesses 95 retailers and DTC brands across seven sectors and identifies best practices for increased customer engagement, optimised mobile experiences and app discoverability through paid levers. 

According to the report, in 2018, iOS app download climbed 26 per cent across brands analysed YoY, a sign of growing consumer interest despite plateauing smartphone sales. It’s critical that retailers and direct-to-consumer brands capitalise on the upswell and develop their mobile audiences to the fullest. Best-in-class brands drive app downloads and usage at different digital touchpoints – from app store search to mobile search – and follow through with premium app features that support high retention. 

Building an app roadmap 

According to the report, when deciding to build an app, brands must consider what audience they are trying to reach as well as their overall objectives. This creates a bifurcation between brands with a ‘mobile extender’ strategy and those with a ‘mobile-centric’ strategy. Mobile extenders seek a larger public audience and devote mobile spends on a campaign basis. These brands must prioritise platforms like mobile sites and then evaluate the feasibility of an app. On the other hand, mobile-centric brands engage with a more targeted audience and lead with unique in-app mobile experiences to drive loyalty. 

Mobile apps must differentiate themselves from mobile sites to add value for consumers. Brands need to integrate app features that promote high rates of customer acquisition, retention and conversion. To accomplish this, the report suggests that brands need to include unique features not commonly found on mobile sites, like biometrics, push notifications, personalisation and more. 

While baseline features like push notifications are almost universally adopted by analysed brands, other more sophisticated tools like preferences settings are found only in 35 per cent of the cases. Underwhelming adoption figures like this prove brands have decided to build apps without fully understanding how to properly execute them or tailor them to frequent, loyal users.

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