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woman with iPad standing in a retail store.

The U.S. retail market has been pegged at $22 trillion annually, with an annual growth rate of 4.5% over the past two decades. So it’s no wonder that retailers are focusing laser-like on their mobile applications for both shoppers and employees.

It wasn’t too long ago that customers went to a store, found what they wanted and bought it if the price was right. In larger urban and suburban areas, those who wanted a really good deal would drive around from store to store, wasting time and resources that could be better spent in other pursuits.

As you well know, today’s retail marketplace is a conglomeration of brick-and-mortar stores, behemoth shopping sites like Amazon and those from big box retailers, consolidated shopping sites and a seemingly endless supply of small online retailers and mom-and-pop shops that have an online retail presence. Finding what you want at the price you want to pay can eat as much time as driving from store to store used to take.

Building an effective retail mobile app can help shoppers cut through the clutter while building loyalty for your brand and your store. Putting an effective app in the hands of employees can leverage your inventory, help employees answer customer questions and drive sales, as one of our clients has proven.

Pyramid Consulting recently worked with a big box retailer on what started as iPad-based sales assistance to help cashiers during high transaction times. The final product turned out to do much more. As currently used, the app extends the knowledge of sales associates to allow them to more effectively answer customer questions. It also allows clerks to check inventory (including items not on display) and ring up purchases on the spot, rather than directing shoppers to a checkout lane.

The reviews from customers and employees have been overwhelmingly positive. By empowering sales associates to answer questions beyond their normal product areas, it allows them to be more useful to customers who are likely to buy more.

Customer-focused retail mobile apps are finally coming into their own. Adoption rates had lagged for several years, with a large majority of shoppers either not downloading retailer-specific apps or downloading them, then not using them. But customers who do use retailer apps tend to shop in those stores one additional time per month, which can add up over a year.

The latest retail survey from Cisco notes that customers want a seamless, relevant shopping experience that includes mobile. More than half of shoppers say they will use a retailer app while shopping, while just one-third would use a third-party app to do the same things.

While business-to-business customers are a bit more forgiving when it comes to the use of mobile apps, general consumers can be brutal to the apps and brands they will pledge their loyalty to. For maximum utility, retail applications should be designed from the customer perspective, with usability front and center.

User experience (UX) is critical to the success of any app. UX is a little bit science and a little bit art. Each operating system (OS) has its own specifications for the user interface, a particular way that the user will interact with the OS. A good app will confirm to those specifications, making good use of the features particular to that OS. An app created for one OS will not migrate well to other operating systems without significant tweaks to adapt the app for the target OS.

In short, a mobile retail app should provide unmatched design and functionality that encourages use. If you’re not sure your apps are living up to this simple yet hard-to-achieve standard, give us a call.

Rajesh Thampi

About the author

Rajesh Thampi

Practice Director, Digital Development & Ops

Rajesh has been researching cutting edge technologies and trends as the Digital Practice Director with Pyramid Consulting since 2011. His day to day features a mix of training internal teams, advising clients, and setting the technological path for all of his Pyramid Consulting peers. His driving force in life and in work is “the need to know, the ability to do, and the vision for perfection”. Rajesh prides himself on his ability to cultivate and comprehend technology on a high level, for his own joy and the success of his Pyramid Consulting family.

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