5 Reasons Why Retail Mobile Apps Fail

by Grace Miller |

The time for mobile shopping has come. And retailers were quick enough to prepare for it. For a while now, they have been pushing towards a business ecosystem helmed by mobile devices. And naturally, apps are at the forefront of that ecosystem. They were undoubtedly right in their assessment, as 45% of U.S. internet users reported that they use their favorite fashion retail mobile apps to purchase products, according to a recent Market Force Information survey as reported by eMarketer.

However, there is a different side to this story too. It has been shown that 80% of all apps never get opened twice, and most of these forgotten apps are deleted forever. Clearly, not all retailers and marketers have been able to get this whole app thing right. The retail mobile apps they are making are either inefficient, confusing, or irritating, which drives customers away. What are the actual problems in these apps? Can they be fixed? Let’s dig into it.

Problem #1 With Retail Mobile Apps: Push Notifications

A push notification is a powerful way to communicate with your customers about new offers or the arrival or new products. It builds rapport with your customers. However, trouble arrives when that’s the only thing that your notifications do, especially if it’s with an annoying level of frequency.

Push Notifications


A notification should be more than a nudge to get your customers shopping. You could (and should) use it to inform your customers about interesting industry news. Or to send a notification about recent articles published that they could be interested in. Of course you should talk about your business and deals through your app, but you don’t want to be overwhelmingly salesy. And your customer’s smartphone should not be buzzing all day long. So, choose the topics of your notifications wisely and plan how to do them carefully.

Problem #2 With Retail Mobile Apps: A Beautiful But Difficult Interface

It’s easy to fall prey to the temptation of coming up with novel ways of navigating through an app. Unique menus, fancy buttons, and responsive elements. This is especially true when the entire world of technically enhanced app development platforms is at your disposal. In this case, retailers end up creating apps that are beautiful but not so useful after all, and customers end up confused and lost about something as simple as which tap they should click. Of course aesthetics matter a lot in app building, just not more than functionality.

Retail mobile apps must be useful and must become customers’ trusted shopping assistants, helping them make the easiest and most pleasant shopping experience.

eBay’s app is a good example to ponder over here. Two of the most striking things that greet you as soon as you begin to interact with it are user friendliness and functional brilliance.

A Beautiful But Difficult Interface

The app’s simple layout, clean design, and swipable interface make it really user friendly. eBay’s app also has the ability to upload images and scan bar-codes through a phone’s camera for product information. The app isn’t just user friendly and beautiful, but is a time-saver too, which is the main reason why mobile apps became popular in the first place. In short, the app is the superior version of the eBay experience, which makes eBay’s app the closest to what one may call a perfect retailer’s mobile app.

Problem #3 With Retail Mobile Apps: No Added Value

Customers have become very critical, since they’re surrounded by multiple versions of the same or essentially the same product. Thus, if your app is a replica of most of the apps out there, it’s  impossible for it to carve a niche for itself. It will most likely vanish into the world of apps.

The most important thing for an app is to justify its very existence. Because that will answer the customer’s question: why should I download it?

He should see some tangible benefits of the app and these benefits don’t necessarily have to be monetary. But there should be something in it for the customers. Something that will enhance their overall shopping experience. For example, the app could do something that your mobile site can’t, keeping in mind that a mobile phone is the device people have with them at all times. So, it’s possible to use it to perform instantaneous things like allowing people to redeem loyalty points on the go or use it as a payment device.

Starbucks, the coffee legend, used its mobile app to include things similar to that.

No Added Value


With almost 12 million active users, the Starbucks’ app gives people the option to pay with their mobile phones in order to earn rewards. Besides, the app also allows customers to monitor their loyalty program progress in real time, which is a great way to let customers have a complete view of their earnings.

Another point to note here is Starbucks is constantly trying to save their customers time. The app comes with an option where customers can pay for drinks beforehand and schedule pick-ups in-store. Obviously, customers are getting more than just a plain purchase action through this app. It is significantly improving the overall customer experience and this is exactly what I mean by giving extra value through the app.

Something to think about–71% of iPhone users download retailers’ apps to earn extra loyalty points, while 67% will install an app to receive app-only coupons or discounts.

Read on below…

Problem #4 With Retail Mobile Apps: Complicated In-App Purchasing

When customers decide to buy something from you, there is usually a series of processes they have to go through. They have to fill the cart, then they have to type in their credit or debit card number, and so on. More than often, customers prefer a laptop or desktop when they have to give out card details. And the reasons for that can be many–they may not be carrying their card at the time of purchase, they may be in a hurry, etc. In either case, the chances of shopping cart abandonment are high. But, it’s possible to get rid of such a complex mobile shopping framework! With your customers’ permission, you can save their payment information when they buy from you for the first time.

Another simpler way is to make use of payment systems like PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Wallet. The Groupon app has shown how this should be done by allowing purchases via Apple Pay. It seriously makes it very easy for customers to grab deals.

Complicated In-App Purchasing


Problem #5 With Retail Mobile Apps: Technical Glitches

Not many things are worse in the customer experience than an app that is constantly freezing or crashing. In fact, 92% of iPhone owners said that they have deleted a retailer’s mobile app because it crashed or froze. The slowness of apps was also a bigger turnoff than the simple fact of not using the app. When customers have such a strong resentment towards these technical glitches, they’re very likely to write negative reviews on the retailer’s site or other reviews collection sites. These technical glitches are the reason behind 96% of bad reviews.

As suggested by the aforementioned stats, technical problems can severely hinder the prospect of your app. The only way out  is constant testing of the functionality of the app and the timely remedies for the existing technical bug.

Indeed, the mobile app industry is growing, and only the best will get the chance to compete for the attention of demanding customers. And to be ahead of the competition,you must make sure that the below listed elements are acting as building blocks of your app-

  • Send notifications judicially and make sure that the content of those notifications deserve your customer’s time.
  • Do not make the app interface complicated. Customers should never get confused about the navigation.
  • Give customers strong reasons for downloading your app. Link it with some business functionality apart from just purchasing.
  • Last but not least, make sure that your app stays away from any sort of technical malfunctioning.

Note: We know how vital mobile is for businesses. And thus we try to include it into our topics of churning and blogs. In this blog, we have discussed how mobile wallets can be used not just as payment tools. Don’t forget to go through this blog where we have listed down the woes of mobile payment use.

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