What Retail Mobile App Is Right For You?

By Andrea Walker, Digital Strategist and input by Brian Cauble, CEO of Appsolute Genius

Retail has a distinct advantage with mobile apps. Not only are there endless creative possibilities in designing a specific application but it makes sense from a business perspective. Let’s look at some recent industry stats…

  • The “mobile influence factor” (or effect of smartphones on in-store sales) on retail purchases will increase to $689 billion (or 19% of total store sales) by 2016 (Source: Deloitte, 2012)
  • 73 percent of consumers say they have used their mobile phone in a store (Source:Interactive Advertising Bureau, 2012)
  • 64% of smartphone owners are now using their mobile devices to shop online (Source: eDigitalResearch and Portaltech Reply, 2012)
  • 93% of people who use apps in stores have bought something at a physical location in the last week, compared to 84% of non-users of shopping apps who have made a retail purchase. (Source: Wave Collapse, 2012)

There’s no doubt mobile technology is influencing the modern consumer. The question is how can retailers ride this “mobile wave” as far deciding what investments to make in mobile apps. Before you can build an app for your brand, it’s best to understand what’s possible with mobile apps particularly catalogue apps.

Paper catalogs have huge limitations that can be be overcome with today’s apps. Catalogs, in the form of mobile applications, can increase customer knowledge, produce more ROI and offer interactivity that’s not possible with print. Here are some examples of different types of retail catalogue apps to consider:

Retail Showcase – B2C

The first step in moving to app-based catalogs is essentially copying your existing print catalogs into a digital form. Then consumers can browse the catalogs e through the iPad, sometimes with effects like page turning motions, connections to an online store, checkout through a shopping cart, and more.

Example: IKEA 2012 catalogue










Wholesale apps assist with the transfer of goods or merchandise to retailers, to industrial, commercial, institutional, or other professional business users, or to other wholesalers and related subordinated services. This is strictly B2B. For example, wholesale apps are excellent tools for salespersons to use in one-on-one settings, such as sales calls or trade shows. These apps demonstrate products, convey product information, and take order information in an elegant, streamlined way. Instead of sending a salesperson out into the field with a bulky binder and wrinkled paper, you can make a better statement by equipping them with an app that includes all the tools they’ll need to close a sale.

Example: En-Fold Fabric Roof iPad App


Immersive Brand Experience Apps

These apps enhances the traditional shopping experience you find in paper catalogs by adding immersive enhancements, such as customized product listings, interactive video and gamifaction, GPS enabled, social sharing,etc. These apps will also incorporate more advanced technology tools like Augmented Reality  to give customers a more virtual experience.

Sephora proved that an app can do both. Sephora’s iPad app offers a feature impossible to duplicate on a traditional e-commerce site. The customer activates “mirror” feature on the app, which uses the tablet’s front-facing camera to show the customer on the screen in one window, while allowing to watch a video of an expert applying makeup on a window below. That lets the shopper watch herself repeat the expert’s techniques as the expert explaining the technique.









More Examples: Victoria Secret, SnapShot Showroom

When considering an investment in native mobile apps,  ask yourself these questions…

  • How would the mobile experience integrate into our brick & mortar and/or e-commerce?
  • Are my customers heavy mobile users?
  • How would a mobile app enhance our brand experience to customers?
  • What can a mobile app do for our customers that a website or other types of marketing tools can’t accomplish?


Need more convincing apps are the future of retail?  Check out our app partner Appsolute Genius’s very insightful presentation “Paper is (Almost) Dead-Long Live The App.”