There’s no question the retail industry is laser focused on mobile. Despite most being digitally savvy, many got a late start in terms of mobile app development and are scrambling to catch up with the mobile consumer shopping preference.

In Q1 of 2018, there were 150 million US Shopping app downloads – up 35% YoY. (Source: eMarketer)

The retailers who did invest early in mobile (Sephora, Target, Amazon) see the channel paying dividends in a big way. For starters, mobile is an integral piece of an omni-channel experience, something we know consumers now expect. More importantly, mobile allows these retailers to provide a personalized experience that makes customers feel like they are having 1:1 interactions with your brand.

And while we know mobile affords us the ability to do both of the above, omnichannel and personalized experiences, what are the actual retail app features that matter most to consumers?


According to eMarketer’s new report on Mobile Retail Apps 2018, these are the 3 most important app features consumers want most out of their retail app:

1. Discounts on Products of Similar Past Purchases

This consumer preference should come at no surprise since its a combination of two key purchase influencers – an incentive (discount) and personalized recommendations. And while on the surface this may seem simple, it means tapping into vast user data – both profile and behavioral – to accomplish the task.

Mobile allows you to not only collect the user insights necessary to tailor the offer, but also the technology necessary to create dynamic campaigns based off of behavioral insights to ensure your customer gets ongoing recommendations based off of their purchase history.

The below screenshot from my Sephora app shows a discount on a makeup brand I had previously purchased. This is a perfect way to drive me to make an additional purchase:

sephora discount

2. Discounts From Push Notifications

This consumer app feature preference is straightforward and should be to the delight of mobile marketers everywhere because it proves that end users do see the value in push notifications; when they’re done right.

Keeping your customers informed about exclusive offers and deals via push is a perfect use case for the app-only technology.

The key here is tailoring the push notification to the end user by using behavioral insights to understand their previous purchase history and preferences. Notifying users about sales on the items that matter to them will drive up your conversion rate while driving down your push opt-out rate by ensuring the message is on-point and tailored to the end user.

Bonus points if you can utilize rich push or location-based messaging notifications.

Nordstrom hit me with the below rich push notification about a sale they were having in women’s, a category I frequently shop:

nordstrom rich push

3. Loyalty Rewards

Perhaps one of the biggest incentives for downloading a retail app is for the rewards. You’ve heard me talk about how apps are the new loyalty cards for retailers. This notion continues to build momentum as more and more retailers turn to mobile.

Make sure that your retail app has a rewards element to it. This could be as simple as ensuring your app is tied to your store’s overall rewards program, or you could offer something exclusive to app users.

Whole Foods (or should I say Amazon?) gives me my own in-app barcode to ensure that I receive my Prime member discounts:

whole foods prime

Sephora brings rewards programs to another level by offering different tiers with increased incentives at each level and beauty gifts you get for free based off of how many points you’ve earned through shopping.

sephora rewards

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, mobile apps break down the barriers to purchasing. A good retail app will create a seamless customer experience that makes it easy (and enjoyable) to convert.

In eMarketer’s Mobile Retail Apps 2018 report, they break it down perfectly:

“Shopping is an investment of both time and money, and consumers are often motivated by resources that can lessen either burden. Apps do exactly that: Through integrated personalization features and a streamlined shopping and checkout process, they remove the speed bumps that so often get in the way on the road to conversion.”

What are your favorite retail apps and why? Comment below.

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