Mobile has forever changed the ways we connect and communicate, but retail may face the biggest shift of all. Traditional retail faces an uncertain future due to marketshare being eaten up by mobile purchasing. By 2021, mobile e-commerce could rake in some $3.5 trillion and then make up almost three quarters (72.9%) of e-commerce sales.

Mobile e-commerce is poised for future growth

With declining foot traffic and increasing mobile sales, retailers are being forced to ramp up their investment in their digital strategies or face failure. But where to start?

The most successful retailers have two common goals when it comes to their mobile apps:

  1. Reduce friction in the path to purchase
  2. Creating a seamless experience across all touchpoints

Let’s look at how some of the world’s top retailers approach both.

Goal #1: Reduce friction in the path to purchase

The ultimate goal for retailers is to increase sales. Reducing friction in the path to purchase is a common sense strategy to influence sales by enabling customers to get what they want, when they want it, with little interference. Mobile can play an integral part in reducing friction digitally and physically.

Here are three ways today’s top retailers position themselves toward less friction and more revenue.

1. Provide a mobile payment option

Streamlining the checkout process is a smart way to remove friction. Mobile payment makes checkouts faster and easier for customers because they don’t have to pull out their credit cards (or loyalty card and coupons) each time they want to buy something.

Kohl’s is notable for their investment in easy mobile payment capabilities. They recently launched their in-app mobile payment system called Kohl’s Pay, which allows their 25 million credit card holders to save their card in the app’s mobile wallet. Kohl’s took it a step further by incorporating rewards and discounts into the Kohl’s Pay program. When a customer uses Kohl’s Pay at checkout, discounts and rewards are automatically added when the in-app credit card is scanned.

Kohl's app

Kohl’s’ mobile app payment process eliminates three steps customers have to take out at the register: their credit card, coupons, and loyalty card. Kohl’s makes their in-store checkout process quick and easy with their mobile app, all while boosting customer loyalty. Retail credit card holders are among the most loyal customers, so allowing them to checkout hassle-free only sweetens the deal.

Customers open retail apps with a purpose; they’re looking for something specific, or they’re just interested in browsing. While it’s often overlooked, search plays a big part in helping consumers find what they’re looking for. A dismal search experience can lead to churn and loss of revenue. According to Google, mobile search is a key signal that consumers are interested in buying. They found 92% of consumers who searched for a product on mobile made a related purchase.

A study by RichRelevance found that 83% of US consumers said a search box is “important” or “extremely important” to them while shopping, and 76% of consumers said they “always” or “often” use the search box. This is important to note, because 35% of shoppers said they’re dissatisfied with search results on mobile. Even more telling is 38% of shoppers complained they receive worse search results when shopping on their mobile device than they do on their laptop or desktop.

Poshmark does an excellent job of prioritizing search throughout their mobile experience. They offer an easy-to-locate search box, and tons of categories to filter with. Additionally, they tag recent searches at the top of the app below the search box to make it easy for consumers to search again if they don’t find what they’re looking for in the marketplace the first time around.

Poshmark app

3. In-app, two-way messaging

The opportunity to connect with customers has never been greater than when you’re in their pockets. In-app messaging allows you to turn your app into a communication channel, particularly when you provide the ability to send and receive two-way messages. These messages help you gather feedback, solve customer problems, and stay on the pulse of customer sentiment—without making the customer leave their current digital experience.

For example, people are busy and often don’t have time to call customer service or their pharmacist with questions. Walgreens recognized the inconvenience of calling the pharmacy during business hours. They proactively took the hassle out of calling by creating Pharmacy Chat for their mobile app customers. Any customer with a question about their prescription can open Pharmacy Chat in the app to message a pharmacist directly.

Walgreens app

Which brings us to the second goal we identified.

Goal #2: Create a seamless experience across all touchpoints

Collecting feedback is critical to improving customer experience, developing better products and services, and nurturing customer love. Unfortunately, most companies only collect feedback in a single place, and usually only after a transaction has been completed. Even when customer sentiment or opinion is captured in different ways or through distinct channels, companies often fail to ‘stitch’ together the emotions and comments expressed, and evaluate exposed trends to build a more complete picture of a customer’s journey experience.

In 2001, the average consumer used only two touch-points when buying an item. Today, consumers use an average of almost six touchpoints, according to Oracle.

Let’s look at how the best in retail provide a seamless experience across all of their experiences.

1. Offer a consolidated digital experience

Similar to consolidated apps with “store mode” (in which consumers aren’t required to download a separate app to aide their in-store shopping experience), retailers can benefit from consolidating the look and feel of their entire digital experience.

eBay executed this strategy by creating a UI that looks, feels, and is organized the same way in-app, on mobile, and online. This allows customers to more easily achieve their goal in eBay without wasting time trying to become acclimated with each channel’s different layout.

eBay app

2. Create an omnichannel shopping bag

Have you ever spent time shopping online and decide you’ll come back later in the day to purchase, only to find your shopping cart is empty in the app when you’re ready to checkout? What happened? You were logged in each time, why didn’t it recognize you?

It’s an incredibly frustrating experience for consumers. Nike recognizes that, which is why they created the digital “shopping bag” to solve this exact problem. Their shopping bag remains the same no matter which channel the customer is shopping in. Consumers and Nike both benefit from the shopping bag; consumers have a seamless omnichannel customer experience, while Nike mitigates the risk that consumers will abandon their bag. It’s a win-win.

Nike app

3. Replace manual chores with digital solutions

People don’t always have the time or desire to stroll leisurely through retails stores picking out clothes to try on. That’s why retailers have created digital solutions for manual chores, essentially turning their apps into time savers.

Nordstrom offers a reserve online, try on in-store option. Customers can browse the selection via the mobile app and select “Reserve Online & Try In Store” from the product detail page items they’d like to try on. Once their items have been located at the nearest store, they receive a text notification, then another when they arrive in-store, which lets them know where they can find the dedicated dressing room with their name and selected items.

Nordstrom app

Not only does this feature make consumers’ lives easier and more convenient, it connects Nordstrom’s world-famous customer service with their mobile experience, so customer expectations can stay high and in-store experiences can be improved.

Looking ahead

Retailers investing in their mobile strategy can learn from Nordstrom, Walgreens, Nike, Kohl’s, eBay, and Poshmark. These retailers have executed excellent mobile strategies that have launched them into the top charts, connected customer feedback across their various channels, contributed to their accelerated MAU growth, and decreased churn.

There are a number of tactics retailers can employ to achieve the two goals above. Whichever tactics you choose is ultimately dependant upon what’s right for your customers. But whether it’s in-app messaging or mobile pay, the time is now to invest in improving your retail mobile app.