American Eagle Outfitters Tops Retail App Ranking

Mobile shopping and buying is up significantly this holiday season by all accounts. But a new analysis of retailer apps suggests that some are better positioned than others to capitalize on the mobile surge.

Ranking highest overall was American Eagle Outfitters, which was cited for successfully integrating its loyalty program and social media properties, while providing user-friendly browsing and checkout. The only major qualm was that the app was extremely slow -- definitely a drawback for users expecting desktop-like connections.

The study by mobile marketing agency Plastic Mobile rated the apps for 10 large apparel retailers against 10 criteria including loyalty, transactions, customer service and in-store experience.

Runner-up was The Gap, noted for its quick search function and streamlined checkout process, with U.K.-based Topshop taking third place, offering a similarly smooth browsing and checkout experience. At the other end of the ranking, based on cumulative totals from scoring for each criterion on a 1-10 scale, was American Apparel.

Its app takes a novel approach in allowing users to scan images for product details. But the marquee feature was not functional, according to the analysis conducted by five area experts (e.g. strategy, design, UX architecture) at Plastic Mobile, which doesn’t count any of the 10 retailers behind the apps among its clients.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s app was likewise slammed for looking pretty but not working well. Given the teen brand’s current business and financial woes, perhaps that’s not so surprising. Staple features such as mobile-optimized browsing, checkout and access to account information were all missing from the app.

Finishing in between Topshop and Abercrombie & Fitch were Zara, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, H&M and Express. Among the main areas where the retail apps generally stumbled were in connecting to loyalty programs, customer service, and the in-store experience.

“The research team found that, while a number of brands were making a concerted effort to bring quality mobile experience to the table, many were simply creating a mobile presence,” stated the report. But that's not enough. It suggested brands have to understand how people are using mobile to better engage them on mobile device.

It points out that the Gap’s app, which ranked No. 2 in the study for overall performance, doesn’t do much to encourage users to interact with the brand. New users, for example, are not able to sign up through the app or learn more, and there’s no social component in the overall mobile strategy. As a result, “the app falls short on creating a medium that drives consumers to become brand enthusiasts."

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