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Why retail apps fail to connect with consumers

Don’t Forget Your Customers When it Comes to Fraud

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Key points

Mobile is huge in ecommerce and omnichannel shopping. Users depend on their devices for almost everything these days. But while smartphones will make up 34% of all U.S. ecommerce sales in 2019 according to 99firms, retail apps aren’t connecting with consumers as much as other popular forms of mobile shopping.

Consumers have concerns about using apps for online shopping. Questions of security and overall customer experience slow enthusiasm for retail apps among shoppers. Online sellers should build better app-based mobile shopping experiences that deliver safe, secure and enjoyable shopping trips every time.

Here’s a look into why consumers are giving retail apps the cold shoulder, plus a few ideas to build upon for a customer-centric retail app experience that can help increase conversions.

Retail apps fall flat for shoppers

Shoppers aren’t wild about apps. The entire world is available to the mobile shopper — anything you want, at any time, anywhere — but apps fail to capture the same allure of online and omnichannel shopping. Maybe it’s a question of bandwidth: about 80% of consumers claim to have downloaded at least one mass merchant app (think Amazon or Target) onto their mobile devices, but they also have five or fewer retailer apps per device. It’s hard to keep up with every retailer that puts out an app. 

Retail Dive takes a look into why today’s retail apps fall short of expectations, for both retailers and consumers. A PYMNTS and LISNR report entitled “Which Apps Do They Want?” found that 22.6% of respondents have no desire to download current apps because the apps lack features of interest, which suggests that retailers have a ways to go in successfully bridging online and offline shopping experiences.

The article also explains that while consumers are reluctant to use apps to complete purchases, they’re still putting apps to work for some steps of the customer journey: 

  • 46% look for discounts
  • 43% search for product information
  • 33% compare prices

Where’s the disconnect between the app’s intended use (making a purchase) and the real-world use cases (taking all actions up to making a purchase but bailing out at the last minute)? How can retailers keep shoppers’ interest when browsing through an app, and justify additional marketing spend into app development and maintenance? 

The answers are in a few key areas that improve customer experience and protect your business from fraud. When you protect your customers, you also protect your business from losing profits to security breaches and fraudsters. A better retail app experience is a click away with these fixes for the app shopping experience that ensure secure, seamless and pleasant transactions every time.

Security is a huge blind spot for apps

One of the biggest problems for retail leaders is protecting security and privacy for their companies and customers. As the online world grows so quickly and vastly, safety is an afterthought — if ever considered at all. 

ZDnet lays it out in plain terms: 75% of mobile applications have vulnerabilities relating to insecure data storage, leaving both Android and Apple iOS users open to cyberattacks that could allow hackers to steal sensitive information.

Most users don’t even think about this part of their mobile usage. CSO Online also points out how outdated devices and software pose increased risks for users and enterprises alike. These devices all operate in the Internet of Things (IoT) and generally don’t come with guarantees of timely and ongoing software updates. 

Cybersecurity firm Raytheon termed IoT as “an open door” with 82% of IT professionals predicting that unsecured IoT devices could cause a “catastrophic” data breach within their organization.

Retail leaders often aren’t tech wizards. But they have a responsibility to make smart decisions that ensure the future success of their companies. Prioritize app and mobile security for your online retail experiences by working with developers who understand how to build a secure app. Ask questions featured in this article from Tech Republic. You can be the one who saves the company and the customers a ton of time and money with the right decisions about what goes into the app.

The right payment methods will pay off in app UX

If you think your app is perfect because it’s already secure and offers an excellent customer experience, there’s more work to do. Take a critical look at the checkout experience, specifically the payment method. That could be the point where customers check out of the app, instead of checking out with their order. 

A Baymard Institute study found that 8% of shoppers abandon their carts because of too few payment methods available at checkout. Customers have more ways to pay than ever before, so retailers must keep up by accepting payments from payment processors like PayPal and virtual wallets like Apple Pay.

Paying with a credit or debit card can be risky business, so many attentive consumers are seeking alternative payment options at checkout. Retail credit card breaches cost consumers millions while shaking confidence in retailers’ ability to protect their customers’ sensitive information. Alternative payment methods like PayPal are often less susceptible to data breaches than are credit cards, as they offer more layers of security with an encrypted platform.

 From a merchant’s perspective, some fraud-protection providers offer PayPal-like security for credit card purchases, meaning merchants can offer a full range of payment options. 

Offering a variety of payment methods, including alternative methods, within your retail app is a double-win: keep more shoppers engaged to complete their checkout, and save your business from losing money due to fraudulent orders and chargebacks.

There’s a lot more to building a secure and engaging app, but it can’t hurt to start with these two ideas.

Are apps necessary or just nice to have?

With all the work that goes into developing the right app for your retail business and the current lukewarm customer reception for apps, it’s important to ask one question before you even start:

Does my business really need an app?

Retail Dive has a great article with insights into why retailers should (or shouldn’t) provide an app to their customers. This article is written with a small business audience in mind, but the advice is valuable for retail leaders from any size business.

  • Who’s your audience? If you’re targeting younger, tech-savvy customers, an app might be the best bet. But if your key demographic skews older, or your analytics show higher traffic and conversions to the desktop site, an app may be pointless. 
  • What’s the ideal experience? Aside from the essentials of customer experience mentioned above, it’s important to think of what an app can offer as an experience versus a mobile site. The key is to differentiate the content per platform. You can leverage unique app-only deals and promotions to draw customers to the app, for example.
  • Which data is best for your business intelligence? Before creating the app, examine your key performance indicators. Apps can provide retailers with more customer engagement metrics beyond likes or opens than other channels such as email marketing and social media apps. This can help build customer connections and start dialogues that reveal your customers’ wants and needs. 

An app can be a great compliment your other omnichannel platforms — if you’re willing to critically examine the app’s blindspots or start fresh with an improved plan that serves the needs of everyone involved in each transaction. These tips can help you start or revamp your retail app strategy with an eye on success.

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo


Online security is a huge question mark, so it’s easy to see how apps and other online shopping experiences can fall short for ecommerce shoppers as retailers balance convenience with security. Contact Signifyd to discuss your needs for ecommerce fraud protection and revenue optimization.

Chris Martinez

Chris is a content strategist at Signifyd.