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Why retailers are still playing catch-up to Amazon’s app

Amazon’s mobile application continues to gain wins among millennial consumers, as evidenced by 76 percent of digital shoppers who have made room for the app on their crowded smartphones, according to a report by Millward Brown Digital.

The Internet conglomerate’s smartphone penetration still reigns supreme over other major retailers when it comes to mobile shopping, due in part to its mass appeal among college-age consumers. Convenience, easy navigation and cross-interface mindsets are all important tactics for brands to keep in mind when brainstorming ways to keep users from deleting their apps after a single use.

“I think it’s actually the Amazon business model that allows it to do couple of things,” said Lincoln Merrihew, senior vice president of client services at Millward Brown Digital, Boston. “It is a combination of a transaction environment and a search engine.

“Some of the success in downloading the app is a reflection of its business success,” he said. “Consumers will download many apps, but not keep all of them. There are about four to six apps that people use a lot.

“After that, they may download them and delete them. Amazon is very popular with consumers. There is also a lot of brand trust there, and a lot of loyalty.”

Leveraging limited real estate
While more than 50 percent of smartphone users maintain 40 to 70 applications installed on their devices, most individuals use only four to six apps per day. The top-cited reason for deleting extraneous apps is rare usage, proving that retailers must target consumers with mobile-only deals and relevant content to keep engagement high.

Millward Brown Digital discovered that consumers are more likely to turn to mobile browsers when conducting initial research for an item, while apps remain dominant among those who regularly purchase from a specific marketer.

Amazon’s commerce-heavy angle includes one-click ordering and fast shipping options, making it the prime retailer to offer a must-have app. The brand has the highest penetration rate among shoppers, resting at 76 percent, followed by Walmart at 33 percent.

EBay and Target round out the top four retailers, with 27 percent and 18 percent penetration, respectively.

Amazon also provides a consistence experience across all mobile platforms, which tosses another point in its favor. While 45 percent of its customers use its app solely, 35 percent use the mobile browser and app equally.

“The app experience should be as consistent as possible with the desktop experience and store experience,” Mr. Merrihew said. “The structure should be similar so you don’t confuse customers.

“It doesn’t mean that the mobile app has to copy the desktop [experience], just be consistent. Make it easy to navigate. Make it easy to get back home, save stuff and track orders.”

Additionally, its quick buying and shipping options are a hit with younger consumers, who often times gravitate toward instant gratification when shopping. The Amazon app reaches users in the 18 to 24 age bracket most readily, while runner-up Walmart appeals more to married couples, as well as females.

Implementing the right tools
Several features are imperative for retailers to offer when it comes to maximizing loyalty and stickiness for a mobile app. The app must be easy to navigate, as 54 percent of users labeled this as their top concern.

Offering special app-only functions is also an attractive feature for many individuals.

Fifty-one percent of survey respondents claimed that easy log-in is the top reason why they prefer mobile apps over browsers. Amazon enables users to sign into their accounts by inputting their email and password, and keeps the account up until they actively log out.

This allows shoppers to more easily engage with the one-click ordering.

The easier to use an app is, the more likely it is to retain customers’ loyalty and long-term business.

“There is a positive correlation between apps and loyalty,” Mr. Merrihew said. “Apps may not create loyalty, but loyal customers may download the app.”

Retailers that are struggling with their mobile commerce strategies must also ensure that their apps cater to loyal customers as well as consumers purchasing one-off items.

“If you’re going to spend money to build an app, don’t do it half-baked,” Mr. Merrihew said. “Just because people have downloaded the app doesn’t mean they’re customers for life.

“It’s just one part of the journey.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York