As mobile devices rapidly surpass desktop computers as the preferred method for online shopping, there is a distinct trend emerging amongst consumers for using a mobile web browser rather than a retailer's dedicated app to make a purchase.
In all EU5 countries, according to the latest European data released from ComScore in July 2016, mobile websites are more effective than mobile apps in driving online and in-store sales. While UK shoppers are almost evenly split on which medium they use, browsers are the clear winner in France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
The study found that mobile browsers are also more effective than mobile apps in all retail-related activities, including finding a store's location and operating hours, accessing coupons, confirming product availability, comparing prices and checking reviews.
Strengthening websites for online shoppers
These new findings are vital to how retailers choose to market their e-Commerce channels. Separate apps are costly to develop, promote and maintain, especially when the platform does not provide a high return on investment. With browsers outperforming apps, retailers may want to focus their efforts on producing an engaging website that is both desktop and mobile friendly.
As of last year, only 32 percent of the top retailers in the UK had made an investment in a transactional app, according to data compiled by the Internet Advertising Bureau. There are currently no retailers amongst the top 10 apps ranked by ComScore. Even heavyweights like Amazon and eBay fall far behind apps for social media and everyday living.
The real value of Mobile Apps
The one caveat to these results is that retail apps do tend to have higher conversion rates since they are utilised by loyal customers. A Forrester survey found that only 13 percent of smartphone users have downloaded more than six retailer apps. The only task where apps have the edge is when customers use their smartphones to access store-value or rewards cards.
Brands that have built a strong following are able to connect with consumers at a deeper level, offering targeted services and exclusive promotions based on shopping habits. This personalisation not only drives repeat purchases but also encourages larger purchases.