Mobile Commerce

Not All Native Apps Are Created Equal

Native apps are a lot like gym memberships: Consumers sign up for them, but only the most ardent of workout junkies — or, in this case, shoppers — ever actually end up using them on anything close to a regular basis.

But with the increasing sophistication of mobile-only websites and the cost and expenses a brand or retailer will incur building and maintaining its own native app, the need for every retailer or brand to have its own mobile app is less and less pressing, according to Meyar Sheik, CEO and cofounder of Certona, an omnichannel personalization platform.

Sheik believes that native apps are “ineffective and unnecessary” for all but the most loyal shoppers and that not all retailers need to create one for their consumers and that not all consumers want an app exclusive to each one of their purchases either.

For example, Sheik noted, most consumers typically only have a handful of apps that they steadily use, rather than downloading every app for every possible purchase they could ever possibly have to make.

“People tend to download an app and often don’t use it, kind of like an exercise machine,” Sheik said. “I think the novelty has worn off from a few years ago when everybody had an app. Back then, the mobile web experience, if you recall, was horrible. It was basically Mobile Web 101.”

Sheik said that, when mobile shopping first began to emerge as a trend, retailers were merely “scrapping their website and jamming it into a mobile device,” but as mobile sites become more adaptive and user-friendly, the need to develop a devoted native app is increasingly diminishing.

“[Mobile] sites are looking more and more like mobile apps, without having the need to download something and sign up and tie up memory that you have to use,” Sheik said.

And Sheik would probably know a thing or two about how retailers and brands can use mobile effectively to target consumers. He helped found Certona in 2004, a San Diego-based company that uses machine learning and predictive algorithms to provide real-time behavioral profiles of consumers, and his company has been using data to predict consumers’ habits for years before mobile shopping was even a thing.

“It’s like having a good sales associate in the store that knows you, remembers you, remembers your preferences and infers certain things from you,” Sheik said of the product his company offers to retailers.

Sheik believes that native apps only really appeal to a retailer or brand’s most loyal customers, and he doesn’t believe that it’s worth it for every one of them to shell out to develop a native app.

“For most retailers, it doesn’t really pay in building an app, because then you have to maintain it,” Sheik said. “And then, it has to sync up with other touchpoints. It’s a lot of work. For Amazon, it makes sense.”

Still, Sheik noted that consumers who use a retailer or brand’s native app typically tend to be its most loyal customers who habitually spend more than most.

“For some of our retail clients, the reason they can justify investing in an app is … that their most loyal and frequent shoppers consume the app, use the app,” Sheik said. “And those most loyal and frequent shoppers, although they could be maybe 20 percent of their customer base, they may represent 40 or 50 percent of sales.”

So, he believes that retailers and brands need to be practical in what they want or expect their native apps to provide to consumers and that native apps can’t be all things to all consumers.

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