Two out of every three retailers still don’t have an official Apple iOS or Google Android mobile application, leaving open an opportunity for fake retail apps to emerge, according to research by commerce platform Branding Brand.
The New York Post reports that some fake retailer apps, such as one for Coach, have tried to lure customers through search ads promising promotions and discounts, noting that consumers are sometimes using fake apps to shop without realizing they are imitations — for example, one shopper almost lost $200 trying to buy leggings through a fake Dillard's app.
Part of the problem, according to Branding Brand, is that Google has been lax about policing Android app submissions, and that Apple's once-rigorous application review process apparently is not as sound as it used to be, either: Apple now allows app operators to buy search ads through its App Store, and some ads are purchased by fake operators intending to improve their position in search results.
The ultimate point of the Branding Brand research is that retailers really should enable their own mobile apps as soon as possible, or someone else may do it on your behalf — and potentially damage your reputation and your relationships with customers in the process.
That's not the biggest reason retailers should have an app. They should do it because it makes strategic sense to broaden a brand and selling capabilities by leveraging mobile channels. Some retailers are way ahead of others in this regard, and in how they engage mobile users.
Merchants who haven't adopted apps probably have their reasons why they haven't, or why they think their customers don't want an app. Having said that, it is kind of hard to imagine that any self-respecting retailer wouldn't want some kind of mobile app, let alone two out of every three retailers. And what better time than the holiday season to get your app up and running?
If retailers still don’t feel they need a mobile app, they might want to consider some other results from Branding Brand's study, which found that 50% of consumers admit to downloading shopping apps at least once a month; that 69% enjoy using shopping apps because they are more convenient than websites; and that 74% expect to use an app to actually buy things.
These findings are very encouraging, but there is also a clear problem in the app ecosystem. Google has never been as proactive as Apple in protecting the integrity and security of apps on its platform, and Apple has never been shy about touting its security edge. Apple also has done a lot to showcase retailer apps, like creating a shopping app category in its App Store. Now, however, Apple search ads designed to help legitimate app developers and operators appear to be helping fake apps get attention, though it's difficult to understand what's really happening because Apple hasn't commented publicly yet. That in itself is a problem.
Retailers that don't have apps should re-evaluate their positions on that because mobile shopping is happening all around them. But it would also be nice if app stores made it harder for that to happen, too.