Online sales apps rise to prominence


Companies without a transaction management system optimized for mobile devices may soon be left behind by their agile rivals. New research by Nielsen found that many consumers are interested in purchasing over their mobile devices, throwing themselves into the practice with gusto despite the technology's relative youth. Managers with an interest in mobile commerce can take important lessons from market leaders' tactics.

Specific and general

The most-used applications for shopping on smartphones and tablets in June were a mix of programs that work at a variety of sellers, such as Groupon, and utilities issued by a specific company like Walgreens or Target. As both types saw wide usage, there is no clear right way forward. Companies can choose between the two, or combine them, and reasonably expect that they might see results - the only decision that could run contrary to the data's lessons is to take no action at all.

"Retailers are finding that consumers are willing to use smartphone apps to enhance their shopping experience, and this data shows usage of shopping apps is growing," said Nielsen telecom insight director Don Kellogg. "As more Americans use their smartphones while shopping and making purchases directly through apps, retailers should consider personalizing their targeted offerings around the needs of individual consumers."

As Kellogg indicated, one of the advantages of mobile commerce is the ability to deliver a personalized retail experience. Without the need to actually stock products on a shelf, a digital store can offer a mobile user a handpicked selection of goods based on previous purchases. Companies with the ability to make those distinctions could develop into leaders as the market becomes increasingly focused on the digital storefront.

Shifts and adjustments

Companies making the most of their sales through storefronts instead of handsets are not exempt from the industry-wide prioritization of the app. According to a new report by the Yankee Group, physical retail is also intimately tied to mobile applications. Apps that compare prices at various outlets and allow shoppers to make a snap decision based on cost are on the rise, led by a very high adoption rate among customers with income topping $200,000 a year.

Yankee researcher Sheryl Kingstone urged company heads to add mobile applications that help check out, determine availability status and tailor offers to interests. Firms with such apps could reclaim the conversation from third-party programs trumpeting better deals online.