Digital Transformation

Why Do Stores Need Retail Mobile Apps?

Retail mobile apps are a common feature for many businesses today, but do they really need them, or is it just a fad?

Blog Post

6 minutes

Sep 01, 2020

Technologies like retail mobile apps have become a steadfast feature for modern retailers.

The business landscape has evolved dramatically in recent years, for the most part driven by the online marketplace and mobile technology.

Mobile apps in particular have changed the way retailers present themselves to customers and how they are perceived by new and returning customers.

Such is the importance of mobile experiences that half of all retailers name a good in-store app as one of their top priorities.

Naturally, given the lockdown restrictions in certain states, it might be more difficult to draw in consumers; but all the more reason to have a compelling and attractive app for them to use for now and when things return to normal.

The millennial generation spends more on consumer goods than any other, and 60% of them say buying online and picking up in store is important to them.

internet of things in retail | infographic with retail IOT statistics

The Mobile Experience


When it comes to shopping, customers expect to be able to do it on their phone—whether businesses have an app or not.

As younger generations continue to enter the job market, the proportion of consumers with money to burn from these demographics increases, and as a result, retailers have to meet their demands.

So, what are these demands, exactly?

Through various surveys, we can draw a conclusion as to the types of experiences customers want from retailers. Let’s take a look at some stats that show what they want:

  • 87% of consumers begin their shopping journey with digital, a jump from 71% in 2017.
  • 53% of consumers want all coupons to be digital.
  • 48% of shoppers have left a brand’s website and made a purchase from a competitor because of a poorly personalized experience.
  • Smartphones were used in more than one-third of U.S. retail sales in 2018, including everything from initial product research to actually making a purchase. That accounts for more than $1 trillion in sales.
  • 53% of millennials don’t think store associates have the tools they need to provide great customer service, such as mobile devices for looking up customer profiles and recommending products.

In short, customers want digital experiences, accessible through their smartphones—or other mobile devices—and they also want that extended to the physical in-store experience, too.

This outlook is unlikely to change in the future. The 2020 pandemic has emboldened ecommerce more than ever, and brick and mortar stores are increasingly testing and experimenting with new technologies to entice customers.

For the foreseeable future, at least, the integration of retail and mobile tech is inevitable.


But what about the retailers themselves?

It’s no secret that traditional retailers have been losing out to the surge in ecommerce that has benefitted online retailers so well.

The question for many of them is whether mobile apps are a necessity for them moving forward.

And before we examine that, it’s also important to address whether a website alone is enough for a retailer.

The answer to that question is kind of, but not really.

As essential and beneficial websites are to generating sales, they frankly pale in comparison to mobile apps when it comes to engagement.

Take a look at these stats for an indication of why apps have an edge over a regular website:

  • Of retailers that have prioritized the mobile experience, mobile apps accounted for 54% of all mobile transactions.
  • Shoppers using mobile apps browsed 286% more products than mobile web shoppers, contributing to an add-to-basket rate 90% higher than mobile browsers.
  • The overall conversion rate on an app was 120% higher than mobile browsers.


Omnichannel sales infographic

Why Apps?

The evidence is there—in comparison to a website, consumers spend more time and convert more through a dedicated app.

Why? Because they’re faster, slicker, and offer a far better user experience. It’s also likely to do with those demands we talked about—customers tend to be unforgiving if the experience doesn’t meet their expectations; and that goes for web experiences, too.

Research by Google found that 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn’t load within three seconds.

This has led to an interesting dynamic as regards having a website and app running alongside one another.

Such is the pervasive customer preference for apps that modern websites often act as something of a marketing tool for the company’s app.

It’s not uncommon to be greeted with an interstitial page on a website inviting you to download a business’ companion app, so much so that it’s proved a frequent annoyance for the general public.

But there’s a very good reason for this—businesses have clued up to the fact that websites and mobile apps have, in effect, two very distinct functions.

  • Websites: The purpose of a modern website is often about nothing more than drawing attention to the brand. Through search engine optimization and paid ads, companies will look to bring in visitors and spread awareness among potential customers. 
  • Apps: The purpose of an app is now frequently about making those all-important conversions. The findings above indicate strongly that customers a far more likely to buy using an app, and more likely to spend more time browsing, too. This has effectively made apps an excellent bottom-of-the-funnel tool for driving your sales.

Does All This Mean I Have to Get an App?

Without wanting to sugar the pill too much, it certainly looks like retail mobile apps will be a steadfast staple of any retailer as we go forward.

The progression of how consumers interact with retail businesses to the present day has shifted the goalposts in terms of their demands for the kind of shopping experiences they expect.

A website alone is unlikely to satisfy a millennial (or even Gen Z) consumer nearly as much as it would have previous generations of consumers in the past, and the large percentage of top retailers who have scrambled to create apps to address this is an indication of the direction of apps in retail.

Retail mobile apps have become not just an additional extra for retailers, but a central aspect of how they conduct their business and provide positive experiences for their customers.


  • Retail mobile apps are increasingly commonplace in businesses of all sizes.
  • Customer expectations for digital experiences determine who they give their custom to.
  • Businesses can leverage apps to better facilitate the buyer’s journey and provide a positive experience to customers.

Custom apps are a crucial part of modern business strategy, but traditional development times and costs have made it difficult in the past for SMBs to come away with a satisfactory product for their needs. At Impact Networking, our highly qualified developers create complex, innovative apps for organizations at a fraction of the cost and time thanks to advances in low-code development services.


Digital TransformationCustomer ExperienceStreamline ProcessesRetailManaged Process OptimizationApp Development


Impact Insights

Sign up for The Edge newsletter to receive our latest insights, articles, and videos delivered straight to your inbox.

More From Impact

View all Insights