3 Ways Ecommerce Companies Can Capitalize on Apps

Mobile apps are shaping the future of ecommerce. Here's how to get in on the trend.
3 Ways Ecommerce Companies Can Capitalize on Apps
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Co-founder & CEO of Tophatter
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The 2017 holiday season uncovered promising insights about the future of ecommerce. Not only did retail sales climb 4.9 percent, according to a report released by Mastercard SpendingPulse, but online shopping also surged 18.1 percent. This lift in spending demonstrates how the internet empowers consumers to make purchases, but merely offering online shopping is not enough in the race for consumer attention.

The future of ecommerce is mobile, evidenced by the fact that time spent on apps is soaring. According to App Annie, in 2017, consumers spent 44 percent more time on the top digital-first shopping apps (think Amazon Shopping, Wish, Etsy and zulily) than they did the previous year. Even time spent in traditional retailer apps such as Walmart, Target and Kohl's grew by 29 percent.

Consumers are flocking to ecommerce apps because they make internet shopping even easier -- when they're done well, that is. Mobile is not new, so businesses have to approach it in fresh ways to stand out. Entertaining and user-friendly interfaces get shoppers on an app and drive them to make a purchase. Business leaders need to understand the power and potential of mobile to maximize this opportunity.

Related: 6 Steps to Building a Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site in 60 Days

Discovery shopping -- there’s an app for that.

The National Retail Federation reported that holiday sales in November and December 2017 totaled $691.9 billion -- $138.4 billion of which came from online sales. Additionally, Adobe found that 33.1 percent of sales during the holiday season came through mobile devices.

Why is mobile shopping so popular during the holidays? It's the perfect platform for discovery shopping -- the pleasant surprise of finding something you didn’t know you wanted. And that appeals to consumers in search of gifts for friends and family.

This phenomenon extends beyond the holidays, however. In China, for example, shopping is about more than swiping a credit card. BCG reported that discovery is a main motivator for shoppers. Perhaps that's why Chinese consumers spend a half hour per day on Alibaba's Taobao, which is three times longer than Americans spend on Amazon daily.

Related: Mobile App Myths: Do You Still Believe Them?

Consumers perusing their phones in their downtime generates the ideal scenario for discovery. And when businesses can create a mobile presence that's both dynamic and quick, they'll stand the best chance of turning mindless browsing into sales.

Businesses should rely on mobile to drive ecommerce. Here's how they can effectively do that:

1. Satiate consumers' desire for instant gratification with snackable moments.

Mobile browsing is typically done in quick bursts -- something has to capture a user’s attention immediately, or he'll move on. So create a platform that immerses customers in discovery shopping right away.

For instance, we designed our app, Tophatter, to deliver a 90-second shopping experience so people can shop in "stolen moments" throughout the day -- while they're waiting in checkout lines or for TV shows to return from commercial break.

Snapchat took a similar approach, building a proprietary store within its app. Snapchat users can play with the dog ears filter, for instance, and purchase a T-shirt modeled after the filter right in the app. This dynamic experience keeps users from having to switch apps to make a purchase -- a surefire way to lose their attention -- and allows Snapchat to continue to engage users.

2. Shrink your checkout time from minutes to seconds.

Time is the biggest help or hindrance for mobile shopping, particularly during the purchase process. Amazon pioneered the one-click checkout for that reason: If a purchase takes too long to complete, a user is likely to abandon it.

Related: The Surprising Ways Amazon, Apple and Microsoft Really Make Their Billions

In fact, research conducted by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum found that 58 percent of consumers have started to buy something on a mobile platform but didn’t complete the purchase. Many said they were asked for too much information or the process was too long. Today’s shoppers want things as fast and easy as possible.

Think of Uber’s success: Users can get a car quickly, they have all the information they need upfront and they don’t have to do anything to pay. An ideal ecommerce app should be like Uber in this way -- streamlined, fast and transparent.

3. Drive discovery with push notifications.

Push notifications are a great way to catch users’ attention and draw them in. Localytics reported that 52 percent of smartphone users have enabled these notifications on their phones. These can be highly effective to promote products, remind shoppers about their abandoned carts or engage absent users.

There’s a fine line between engaging and annoying your audience with notifications, though. Playful, creative push notifications can draw users back in, while incessantly poking them will likely cause them to withdraw further. The tactic here is to educate and entertain.

Furthermore, segmentation helps ensure personalization. The data on an app can determine which products and information are relevant to different groups of users. This empowers businesses to deploy messaging that's relevant and valuable.

Mobile is neither new nor is it going anywhere. In-app purchases will continue to grow, especially as spending in America continues to rise. Businesses must optimize their apps for the most engaging user experience to capitalize on mobile’s potential.

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