Leveraging Mobile Apps to Boost Retailers’ Bottom Lines

Dave Bell
Dave Bell
Guest Contributor

Through a better understanding of mobile consumers and their shopping behaviors, retailers can develop and market apps catering specifically to user behavior, delivering differentiated shopping experiences and creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

M-commerce is exploding and has become a major channel for shopping. The demand for shopping apps have grown so much that in the fall of 2015, Apple dedicated a whole category titled “Shopping” to keep up with the demand in its ecosystem.

With the rise of mobile, more and more consumers are adapting to the convenience of m-commerce shopping. BI Intelligence has forecasted that m-commerce will reach $284 billion, equating to 45 percent of total U.S. e-commerce revenue by 2020. With this growth, retailers have an opportunity to reach consumers in new ways that are mobile centric, context driven and timely. Retailers will be able to increase their reach through the mobile ecosystem and attract users who have never entered their brick-and-mortar storefronts. Having a mobile app allows businesses to reach their target consumer in real time, understand more about the behavior of their consumers in the mobile environment, and boost their bottom line.

Retail apps are the second fastest growing sector in the world after gaming apps, and they currently account for over 20 percent of all U.S. retail e-commerce sales. If your brand has an audience in a geography with high smartphone penetration, chances are that potential customers are looking for your app in the App Store or Google Play every day. There are gaps between online and physical channels where mobile can help fill the void of interaction, including deals on the go, price comparison, location finder, barcode scanners and more. Going mobile gives retailers the opportunity to give users in the post-PC era what they need in real-time.

What the Current Retail Market Looks Like

The term “retail apocalypse” has been used by many publications as once thriving brands shrink their retail footprint to remain profitable. In the most recent report from Credit Suisse, 8,640 shops were reported to close in 2017. These massive closures are 40 percent higher than at the 2008 peak when 6,200 stores were closed. Credit Suisse also predicts that 275 malls, 25 percent of the nation’s 1,200 total, will close within the next five short years. As a side effect, retail apps are making up for the deficit.

In 2016, $1.2 billion in revenue was generated just from mobile sales on Black Friday. Per the annual State of Retailing Online 2016 Key Metrics Report, online retailers reported an annual growth of 53 percent from smartphone-based transactions, with mobile earning 44 percent of retailers’ online traffic and 31 percent of total sales in 2016. Numbers are expected to dramatically exceed the 2016 holiday season toward the end of 2017.

Why Going Mobile is Vital to Your Bottom Line

Most consumers use their phones to compare products or prices, and locate deals or review other promotions. Almost half of all consumers also find it important to easily review products, view instructional videos and have access to other product-related information that can make their purchasing decisions easier.

Engagement is enhanced when retailers offer personalized content and relevant services where the consumer can make use of those services at any time through their mobile phone. By simply offering personalized deals and a percentage off exclusively through the app, retailers reward customers who have taken the time to download their app. This in turn encourages customers to return because they are more likely to receive the best deal.

The days of “if you build it, they will come” are over. The customer relationship, because of mobile, has moved from a transactional relationship to a relationship of continuous engagement. This means leveraging mobile to provide convenience and build more intimate ties with consumers. For a mass market retail brand, this can’t be accomplished without an app on as many devices as possible. Following this key list of marketing essentials will help retailers enhance their relationship with consumer through mobile apps:

1. App Store Optimization

With the influx of retail apps in the app ecosystem, Retailers can no longer just publish their app and instantly see downloads. Simply put, users will not download an app just because you build it.

It’s important for any marketer to understand who their target customers are and their user behavior. When using a mobile device, user behavior changes significantly from the desktop as users seek out convenience features and shortcuts based on their location and immediate needs. Also, important to note is that 80 percent of users download their apps by searching inside the App Store and Google Play, with a majority of those searches represented by generic terms referring to features of an app. Understanding which features have the most organic demand in your category and the language used to search for those features is critical for success of an app in any marketing channel.

App Store Optimization (ASO) in the world of mobile is similar in concept to SEO for web. ASO provides a foundation to understand mobile users, the features that are trending in the app stores related to your category and how to position an app to attract its core audience.

ASO utilizes application metadata (app name, keywords, description and creatives) to optimize the app to find quality users. When optimizing application metadata, it is important to ensure that you are utilizing the correct data (user search trends and behavior) and methodology or these efforts may not be successful. Web search trends and mobile search trends are fundamentally incompatible and ASO methodology differs substantially from web SEO. Marketers should be wary of companies and self-service tools which use traditional SEO methodology or web data.

Top companies in the ASO space consist of Gummicube, App Annie and Sensor Tower.

User trends and behavior are always changing, meaning retailers need to monitor and understand how their users search to help maximize their app visibility and target their audience effectively. This is the difference between being found and potentially becoming buried within the App Store and Google Play.

2. ASO Impacts Cross Channel Marketing ROI

With over 1.5 million apps in the mobile marketplace, retailers must understand that marketing an app is a serious activity. It is important to allocate a realistic budget that will cover essential advertising channels like Apple Search Ads, Facebook/Instagram, and Google AdWords.

Implementing an ASO process will also help you target and convert users more effectively in all paid channels. This is because the information you learn about how users search for your app, which features have the most demand and even which variants of creative assets convert on your app page will translate into your paid campaigns. For example, a better converting app page will improve ROI of the paid campaign by driving down cost per install. Using a call to action in your marketing that is based on a particular feature that users search for can also improve performance in most channels.

3. Overall Marketing Strategy

Invest in both a paid and organic ASO strategy, but start implementing the ASO as soon as possible. Just like web SEO, it will take time for your app to rank well on keywords that are important to your business. You’ll also need time to run proper A/B testing to ensure that your creative assets are converting well.

In addition to ASO, also consider content marketing. Consider implementing a partner outreach program and build relationships with writers, journalists, and bloggers who have an audience that aligns with your mobile consumer.

Paid search should be secondary, after you understand your mobile user base and what they are searching for. Effective paid search channels are Apple Search Ads and Google AdWords UAC campaigns. On average, users from paid search channels are equal to the quality of organic users.

When starting a paid search campaign keep in mind that app analytics is essential for tracking return on investment. Consider attribution tools to track your spending and evaluate the quality of your marketing channels. Players in this space consist of Adjust, Kochava, and Branch.io.

If you are looking to temporarily boost chart ranking of your apps, consider app promotion networks, like ironSource, Applifier and Jebbit.

As with all media planning, it is important to analyze your data, test the market, and constantly optimize. A perfect campaign today ends up being tomorrow’s past.


Retailers should take advantage of m-commerce growth to enhance their business, build continuous omnichannel relationships with consumers and grow overall revenue.

Having a mobile app will provide an advantage over competitors who have not adapted to the post-PC world.  Understanding mobile consumers and how to develop and market an app to cater specifically to user behavior on the mobile device will make that advantage sustainable.

About the writer: Dave Bell is the CEO of Gummicube, a leader in providing App Store Optimization and App Store Intelligence software and services to growth marketers and app developers. Connect with Dave on Twitter @daveabell and LinkedIn.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.