Despite the unpredictability of 2021, forecasts predicted that UK consumers would spend £10bn more on online purchases than the year before. Moreover, a recent survey by Attest, which explores the behaviours of 1,000 working-age UK consumers, suggests buyers will continue to use a mix of online and physical shopping. Half of the consumers “mostly” to “always” buy online, while 29% prefer shopping in-store and 31% divide their purchases between online and offline. 

To harness consumers’ incentive to spend on whichever platform they choose, retail brands must capture engagement and invest in the channels that offer the ability to optimise the consumer experience. Mobile apps unite both physical and digital purchase pathways. For example,  Schuh’s “sneaker hunt” gamified the high-street experience with augmented reality that could be activated by scanning QR codes in-store or via digital ads.

But how exactly are retailers connecting the dots from first impression to conversion and seizing this opportunity to drive revenue in 2022?

What was the pandemic’s impact on mobile commerce?

a young woman buying a product via her mobile app.

Consumer adoption of mobile eCommerce has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. In the UK, eCommerce app installs increased nearly 72% during 2020 in comparison to pre-pandemic figures.

In 2021, in-app purchase revenue grew by nearly 18% on the App Store, surpassing $85 billion. Google Play also saw an increase of 23.5%, reaching almost $48 billion. Retailers that overlook mobile as part of their marketing plans could be missing out on a major opportunity.

As another touchpoint becomes embedded in the purchase journey, brands are also under pressure to deliver a seamless experience across channels and devices. From speed and convenience to improved brand interactions, mobile eCommerce apps help to innovate campaign strategies by gaining consumer insights and meeting shoppers’ rising expectations.  Mobile is now becoming an experience, meaning retail brands must experiment to ensure their campaigns create a strong impact on shoppers.

Why should retailers respond to this movement now?

Offering consumers new, appealing ways to shop is guaranteed to attract greater revenue throughout 2022 and beyond. But what does a good app look like?

an image showing a variety of mobile apps available for mobile commerce.

In the UK, ASOS has one of the top-ranking shopping apps, providing customers with features such as instant updates and order tracking. The app also gives consumers personalised browsing via its Style Match functionality, allowing them to use photos to discover similar items in stock.

Elsewhere in fashion, the luxury e-commerce giant Farfetch partnered with social media platform Snapchat offers consumers the chance to virtually try on clothing, glasses, purses, and bracelets through innovative technology that detects and responds to body movements and facial dimensions. This virtual shopping experience also features voice and gesture-controlled filters, product catalogue integrations, virtual stores, and the ability to search for images and shop for items seen in real life.

These advanced shopping functionalities on social platforms will likely make ‘s-commerce’ (social commerce) a major trend in 2022. By implementing new tactics and formats, retail brands can improve app-related marketing metrics such as retention, conversion rates, and average sessions and revenue per user. Measuring engagement and outcomes is essential for building an effective strategy, but in a landscape shaped by user privacy, brands must make the most of available, privacy-compliant data and utilise it for success at all times.

How can mobile apps help retailers overcome potential challenges?

One of the biggest changes to the mobile landscape during 2021 was the iOS 14.5 update. This allowed Apple to enforce the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, meaning users must opt-in to apps collecting their information and tracking their activity across platforms.

Marketers have typically relied on this capability to gain user-level data and insights into how their campaigns are performing, but with the push to protect data privacy, Apple now offers users control over whether brands can access their information. This shift is posing a challenge to retail brands wanting to employ user data in their strategies as only two-fifths (41%) of consumers are choosing to opt-in.

an image showing a group of friend discussing privacy issues while buying online.

Despite this constraint, brands can combine conventional data strategies with new approaches to truly optimise the consumer experience. For instance, focusing on owned channels that don’t require IDFA such as emails, web browsing, and social media, will help online retailers gather insights without the need for user-level data.   

Other ways to succeed in a privacy-centric era include leveraging predictive modelling, where marketers can analyse available data and determine high-potential behavioural patterns. They can forecast what will happen as a result of their campaigns and optimise strategies accordingly. Retailers, for example, might see that shoppers who engage with the ‘seasonal sales’ section of their app soon after new offers go live are more likely to make recurring purchases over the quarter. Therefore, these brands can then identify profitable user behaviours and adjust campaigns, encouraging consumers to engage with seasonal sales.

Final thoughts

Mobile apps are increasingly mainstream with the UK now being the fourth largest market for iOS eCommerce apps. To maximise success in the face of consumers seeking more personalised purchase journeys and bespoke brand interactions this year, retailers should look to add new capabilities to their apps and invest in advanced analytics capabilities. Such as predictive measurement to meet the expectations of their high-value users, deepen their customer relationships, and gain meaningful marketing insights in a privacy-complicit way.

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