Why Mobile Users Download (and Delete) Retail Apps

Retail app downloaders might not be who you think

Author: Krista Garcia

September 12, 2018

Apps vs. mobile sites has been the subject of debate since the dawn of smartphones. For a period it seemed like apps fell out of favor, but there is proof that trend is reversing in the retail industry

A Civic Science poll released in September revealed 43% of US consumers had downloaded a retail app. Not surprisingly, these downloaders tended to be more frequent digital shoppers, and nearly three-fourths (71%) had used mcommerce compared with roughly one-quarter who had not downloaded a retail app. However, mobile sites (43%) were more commonly used among US digital shoppers to make digital purchases than apps (28%).

Less expected? Consumers who downloaded retail apps were more likely to be ages 35 to 54 and have incomes over $100,000—in other words, moderately affluent Gen Xers. This group was more likely to use an app in-store for price comparison than 18- to 34-years-olds, who tend to use apps while outside of brick-and-mortar shops.

While this implies that older mobile users may download retail apps more, millennials are the ones who use them more for transacting. Gen Z, meanwhile, hasn't gotten fully on board with mcommerce.

An April 2018 survey of online buyers in the US by Synchrony, a financial services company, found that 67% of respondents had downloaded a retail app, higher than Civic Science's broader survey base, up 8% over 2017. Most of the online shoppers surveyed used them for browsing products (60%) rather than making purchases (49%). These digital buyers regularly used four retail apps on average, and 83% of those polled said they were happy with the experience.

But what about the unhappy users? A recent study from mobile analytics provider Adjust found that app downloaders worldwide kept ecommerce apps on their phones the longest of all industries before deleting; 10.8 days compared with the 5.8-day average. Presumably because users were waiting for a purchase to arrive and could check on their order or delivery information before getting rid of the app.

According to Synchrony, two major factors contributed to deleting a retail app: free up storage space (34%) and shopping less with a retailer (33%). Fewer deleted a retail app due to a poor experience (21%).

Retail doesn't inspire daily visits like news, entertainment or social apps, but marketers can still give retail app users reason to stick around. Re-engagement could include new product alerts, rewards programs or promotions. All the better, if based on personal preferences.

And per Adjust, if a user deletes a retail app, roughly one in five smartphone users worldwide polled said they would eventually reinstall.