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How Can Indie Retailers Compete with the Newest Smartphone Apps?

By Jasmine Glasheen, Generational Marketer for Retail Minded. 

It seems like every season there’s a new phone app taking the retail world by storm. While some of these phone apps can be used to bring customers into physical stores, others are focused on helping customers find bare-bottom prices and many fear that these apps will lead customers away from shopping with local businesses. The old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” adage doesn’t exactly work for small businesses looking to compete with Big App, since building an iPhone or Android app can cost a company anywhere from $500 to $500,000 and many local retailers just aren’t throwing around that kind of liquid cash.

However, there are plenty of cost-effective and equally compelling ways for small businesses to compete with the newest shopping apps. Let’s delve into why so many retailers are investing the big bucks into mobile apps, and what you can do to knock those app-laden retailers out of the water.

Why Retailers Opt to App

Many retailers have faulty conceptions about the percentage of customers that prefer to shop via mobile apps, which often leads them to invest more into their store’s app than is necessarily beneficial towards reaching their target audience. Let’s take a look at the facts: According to Search Engine Land (via ReadyCloud), 78 percent of searches from mobile devices lead to an in-store  conversion. However, here’s the caveat: 70 percent of these mobile customers prefer shopping on a retailer’s mobile website to shopping through a mobile app. In other words, while a solid mobile presence is essential for retailers to build their presence across channels, creating a branded app is not.

Here are 3 quick alternatives to buying your own app, along with links to where you can make it happen for your store.

Alternative #1: Get Compatible with Mobile 

As we discussed earlier, most mobile shoppers prefer the convenience of visiting a retailer’s website to the hassle of downloading an app. So, what’s most important to appealing to mobile-first shopper is ensuring that your website is compatible with mobile browsers. Make your website mobile shopper ready by building it mobile-first with responsive web design, which ensures that your site will be compatible with the wide variety of mobile devices which customers will use to try to access your site. If it’s a little late in the game for mobile-first website design, go for a conversion platform to create a mobile site from your existing one, or use a mobile plug-in from your website’s host. Learn more about the specific details of creating a mobile website here.

Alternative #2: Make Shoppable Social Accounts

If your company already has an account on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (and by now you really should have accounts on one, if not all of these platforms), then it’s high time you started cashing in on your social media efforts by making your accounts shoppable. There’s a whole bevy of tech platforms that can be integrated into your social media accounts to create a shoppable feed, so there’s no reason to hold off on reaping the maximum fiscal benefits from your existing accounts on social media. Of course, the quality of and integrity of the images you post on social are a huge part of getting customers to want what you’re selling, so consider putting in a little extra effort to take great pics of your products in a cool locale.

Alternative #3: Be Their Favorite Personal Shopper

There are a still a lot of things that mobile apps just cannot do for customer. While personalization algorithms can pick up on a shopper’s buying preferences to recommend purchases, many are put off by the annoyance of having items which they viewed (or bought!) at one point continually marketed to them via email, social media, and websites on a daily basis. You, on the other hand, have the benefit of keeping getting to know your customers and keeping track of why they did or did not opt to make a specific purchase. As a result, you can offer them personalized marketing emails and product recommendations that can’t be replicated by a machine.

Although many customers appreciate being able to shop via their mobile devices, you can create a better buying journey for you customers with a mobile-first website design than by investing major money into a shopping app that most customers won’t use. Before making an investment in any new technologies, talk to your customers about their priorities when engaging with your brand. With a little communication and an awareness of your business’ strengths, the experience offered by retail discount apps will only help to draw a sharper contrast to the ease and personalization of shopping with your small business.


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