July 3, 2012, 3:04 PM

Smartphone-toting shoppers convert more in stores when retailers supply their own app

Retailers that use apps like shopkick still see solid, but lower, returns, Deloitte says.

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With the influence of the mobile web on store sales projected to more than triple by 2016, according to a recent report by research and consulting firm Deloitte, retailers today have to decide how they’re going to interact with consumers who use their smartphones to help them shop. Deloitte survey results suggest that retailers may want to invest in their own dedicated mobile apps, because consumers using them to help shop in stores convert more often than when they use applications provided by others. 

85% of consumers that said they used a retailer’s own mobile app to help them shop in a store made a purchase on that shopping trip versus 71% who said they made a purchase when they used shopping apps operated by another company. Non-retailer shopping apps include points-based loyalty programs like shopkick, which counts retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Target Corp. as clients, and lets consumers accumulate points they can redeem for discounts at those retailers. American Eagle Outfitters is No. 102 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300, Target is No. 31.

The Deloitte survey of more than 1,557 smartphone owners also found that consumers that use the mobile web in any way in planning a shopping trip or while shopping are 14% more likely to buy than those smartphone owners who do not use the mobile web to help them shop.  

Kasey Lobaugh, multichannel retail practice leader at Deloitte, says retailers can interpret these results in two ways. “If you cede the [mobile shopping] space to a third party, it is negatively impacting your conversion rate,” he says. “But if you do decide to offer mobile services with a third party it’ll affect you positively, and it’s above offering nothing at all.”

Other research indicates that retailer-specific mobile apps have further benefits. 45% of smartphone owners that have a retailer’s mobile app visit that store more often than do smartphone owners that do not have the app, according to a December survey conducted by ABI research of 965 smartphone owners.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the latest major multichannel retailer to roll out new features designed to assist shoppers in stores to its own mobile app. New features include an in-store aisle location feature that shows consumers where products on their shopping list are located in the store, and a bar code scanning feature that links store shoppers with product information and prices. Wal-Mart is No. 87 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300.

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