Mobile phones are having an even larger impact on the retail shopping experience than experts believed, with 86 per cent of shoppers using retail mobile apps, and 59 per cent using them up to five times per week, according to a recent study by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and wireless networking vendor Aruba Networks.

The study, which Aruba conducted by surveying more than 500 consumers during the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Retail’s Big Show 2016, also discovered that mobile apps can have a significant impact on consumer loyalty, and that mobile shoppers would like to see retailers making a greater effort to accommodate them by providing in-store Wi-Fi, and by instructing sales associates to step back and allow connected customers to consult their apps for basic information instead.

Aruba divided its survey results into six key findings:

1. Retail mobile apps can be addictive

How many customers download retail mobile apps to begin with? And once downloaded, are the apps used regularly? In addition to learning that 86 per cent of respondents use a retail mobile app, and that 59 per cent use them up to five times per week, Aruba’s researchers discovered that one shopper in eight uses retail mobile apps more than 10 times per week.

2. Consumers prefer interacting with their mobile phone over a sales associate

We’ve seen this before. While a friendly, knowledgeable sales associate is presumably worth their weight in gold, too many are uninformed and pushy, Aruba said, adding that its researchers were less than surprised to learn that 57 per cent of respondents would rather consult their mobile phone than a sales associate when browsing products in a store.

3. Retail loyalty apps keep customers coming back

When Aruba asked respondents whether they would prefer shopping at a store where they were a loyalty member or a competitor nearby, fewer than nine per cent chose the competitor, while 72 per cent said they would choose the store where they were a loyalty member. (It’s also worth noting that 20 per cent were indifferent.)

4. In-store navigation is key

Just as modern social media marketing plans can’t just focus on Facebook and Twitter, a retail mobile app needs to be more than just a catalogue and store information. In particular, Aruba’s study learned that in-store maps and indoor navigation were significant incentives for downloading retail apps, making real-time product locations a key element that retailers should be including in their apps.

5. In-store incentives lead to high customer conversion rates

It’s no secret that one benefit provided by the latest retail software is its ability to offer customers in-store incentives if they’ve been looking at a particular item or the app knows they’re walking nearby. But do those incentives yield results? Aruba discovered they do: 78 per cent of respondents said they would be likely to take advantage of an in-store offer that was presented to them.

6. For shoppers, Wi-Fi is king

Mobile data use might be increasing, but it can also be prohibitively expensive, particularly for the younger shoppers so coveted by retailers. So it should come as no surprise that when respondents were asked what they used their mobile phones for the most once they entered stores, connecting to Wi-Fi was number one.

Given how vividly the rest of the survey’s results illustrated the impact of mobile apps on modern shoppers, providing easy access to Wi-Fi should be a key goal for retailers, Aruba said.

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