E-Commerce Sites or Mobile Apps: Which is Best for Retail?

3 min read

ecommerce-app62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months. A resulting debate has started regarding whether retailers should develop an optimized eCommerce website for their retail store or stick with a downloadable app.The decision of which is the better option for a retail business depends on a number of factors like the product offering(s), target consumer audience, required investment and competition.

So how can you figure out which method is best for your retail business and will gain more revenue and drive customer loyalty? Let’s take a look.

Customers Like E-Commerce Apps

Mobile apps allow retailers to engage with customers. Many retailers struggle to strategize how they can communicate with consumers unobtrusively. Ideally, reminders prompt customers to make a purchase without annoying them. Mobile apps allow merchants to send customers push notifications about discounts, sales, new products and relevant news. Simultaneously, they drive customer engagement.

Additionally, research suggests that consumers enjoy using mobile apps. Studies show that 89% of consumer media activity occurs on mobile apps. Not only can the right app help attract loyal customers, but it can also reward them with a more convenient and interesting experience.

Mobile Apps Will Continue to Grow

As technology evolves, so too will the growth of eCommerce apps. To make it easier for consumers to make purchases, many retailers are enabling mobile payment systems. Innovative technologies like “Apple Pay” enable consumers to make in-store purchases from their phones. In brick-and-mortar stores, this prevents customers from having to wait in line.

Mobile apps also improve in-store experiences by streamlining several channels (omnichannel retailing).  Integrating digital catalogs into retailers’ physical stores can improve customer experience. Digital catalogs also increase sales by giving consumers’ information about products of interest. Take app-based barcode scanners, for example. With one click, customers can view product details, deals, and availability.

Consumers Prefer Websites to Apps

While it may seem surprising in today’s app-centric world, research suggests that customers prefer using the mobile web as a place to shop when compared to eCommerce apps. This means that having a high-performing, responsive site is just as important as investing in an app. This data also proposes that:

  • 51% of consumers prefer shopping on the mobile web vs. using a smartphone app
  • 58% of mobile retail revenue is predicted to come from the Web this year
  • 82% of smartphone shoppers use their mobile browser to search for products in-store
  • 62% of shoppers say they visit a mobile website directly vs. 21% who say they use a retailer’s app in-store
  • The majority of retailers under-utilize their opportunity to sell through a responsive eCommerce website

Which Option Should You Choose?

Mobile apps and mobile-optimized eCommerce sites may seem similar in function on a basic level. However, they operate in different areas of the sales process. Mobile websites best serve consumer searches for products. Conversely, mobile apps are best for inspiring customers to become return clients. For retailers that are looking to maximize their potential revenue and develop a loyal clientele, a responsive eCommerce website and a mobile app may be strong investments.

Supporting Apps and eCommerce Sites in Physical Stores

Mobile apps and eCommerce sites both require strong infrastructure and computer networking systems in brick-and-mortar locations. One study indicated that half of small businesses report customers spent more money when WiFi became available. “For retailers, customers can use the WiFi to browse your products and read reviews in real-time.” says Business Insider. The first step in making your retail location WiFi enabled is selecting an internet service provider. Then, you can use platforms like Field Nation to find networking, cabling, and wireless technicians.