Mobile consumers prefer mobile websites to native apps for all mobile shopping activities except for using stored-value cards in-store, according to a new survey by Forrester Consulting. Forrester partnered with coupon site RetailMeNot to conduct an online survey of 511 US consumers who have used their smartphone to shop in the past three months to evaluate US consumers’ smartphone usage, mobile shopping activities, and the challenges and benefits of retailer apps.
Consumer Smartphone Usage
For many US consumers, the smartphone is now the first go-to-device for Internet access and online shopping. The Forrester survey shows that consumers use their smartphone for many shopping-related activities including research products, locate a store or check store hours, check status of an order, read product reviews, find and redeem coupons and more.
Mobile websites and native apps are the two main platforms retailers are using to interact with consumers on mobile devices. They both have strengths and weaknesses. For instance, loyal and engaged customers who use their smartphones in-store or consistently return to a retailer site may prefer a native app, but users who infrequently shop and need to quickly look up the store location or opening hours may get annoyed with repeated requests to download an app.
Past research from Forrester and data released by Nielsen in June of this year shows that the time consumers are spending on their smartphones with apps has grown dramatically, but the number of apps they use on a monthly basis has not. In addition, apps use is dominated by several categories, including social networking, communications, media and games.
Consumers typically only spend only 5% of their time on their phones in shopping apps. Forrester found, in their latest survey, that 60% of consumers who use a smartphone to shop online have fewer than two retailer-specific apps on their phone, and 21% don’t have any at all.
Retailers struggle to get consumers to download and install their apps. There must be a compelling reason for them to take the time to download and interact with a retailer in an app, rather than just using the retailers’ website.
Forresters’ survey shows that consumers use retail apps for three main reasons: convenience, speed and personalized experience. Retailer apps that do not provide value over a mobile website, or apps that offer a poor user experience, such as frequent crashes, excessive battery drain, slow loading and performance, are quickly replaced or removed from the phone.
The Forrester survey reveals that consumers more frequently choose to use a mobile website to perform the majority of their shopping-related activities.
Many retailers have started their transition to mobile by implementing a mobile web first. As a result there are many more retailers that have a mobile site versus mobile app. For most retailers the mobile-web-first decision has been driven by cost. They often don’t have the engineering resources to make a continuous investment in cross-platform app development and deployment or even the marketing budget to continuously manage push programs.
The mobile web allows server-side control and maintenance, and the cost of labor to develop and maintain mobile web sites is significantly lower than native mobile app development. In addition, there is still a great deal of mobile search activity, which is dominated by Google, so it is no surprise that the majority of traffic is still coming from the mobile web versus mobile apps.