Are smartphone apps the next new marketing gimmick for retailers, or a valuable tool for their customers? According to the latest market study by ABI Research, given the results of a new survey of U.S. consumers, it may be both.
Survey respondents who said they had downloaded a retailer-branded app said the app caused them to visit the store more (45.8%), buy more of the store or brand's products and services (40.4%), tell a friend about their store shopping experience (35.8%), and encourage friends to visit the store (30.8%).
"These are overwhelmingly positive numbers," says senior analyst Mark Beccue at ABI Research. "They are so compelling that if retailers do not have a smartphone app strategy in place right now they are in danger of being left behind by their competitors."
That being said, only 25 percent of the respondents had downloaded a retailer-branded app. It is possible the high level of positive response is due to the profile of the respondents, who might be enthusiastic fans of particular favorite store(s).
As the number of consumers who download retailer-branded apps go up, the level of positive response might go down. A second effect that probably won't benefit retailer-branded apps -- 37.9 percent of the respondents said downloading a retailer's branded app made them more likely to download other retailer-branded apps.
Still, the number of smartphone users that view these retailer apps in a positive light are compelling and encouraging.
"Clearly consumers are using retailer-branded apps as an engagement tool. Once a retailer can capture a consumer with one, there is a real opportunity to leverage smartphone apps to enhance customer service, deliver richer, more relevant product information in real time, shorten checkout lines, and more," says Beccue.
Perhaps we are at the dawn of a very dynamic and creative time for retail. It's a perfect opportunity for savvy retailers to experiment with smartphone applications, and thereby gain a competitive advantage -- while the window of opportunity is still open.