The Mobile Web Is Quietly Killing Off Retail Apps

Is the app dead? It has certainly been written off in conference speeches over the year as well as the occasional alarmist headline, but what we've all pretty much known all along really does now appear to be coming true. Consumers just don't want a mobile phone packed with screen after screen of apps. They don't want to scroll through page after page of icons, looking for an app that only allows them to interact with one brand.

That's certainly the finding of research from Episerver, which found that one in three UK retailers do not have an app. A year or two ago this would have been used as a stick to hit retailers over the head with, accusing them of not understanding mobile and being stuck in the dark ages. Today, however, it can be seen as more of a sign that they do actually get mobile marketing and realise that app fatigue has hit consumers. 

The research also showed that the majority of retailers are focusing on mobile Web marketing. They are putting money into mobile advertising, content and search that will be discovered through a browser, not by swiping right and left a few times before their app logo comes into view. People are accustomed to searching online for relevant content, and the retailers' reaction to apps would suggest they are happy to search on mobile too.

There are probably some honourable exceptions to this. Everyone will have a favourite brand they are likely to want to access via an app, and there are some activities where that brand is the only one you are interested in to get things done. Checking your bank balance or checking your flight is still on time, booking train tickets and playing your favourite game fit i to this category.

However, it's rare that apps bring much to the party that isn't offered in a mobile web browsing session, and when you're not in a funnel, looking to fulfil a task with a particular provider, it's likely consumers want a choice in search from which they may well then narrow down to an interaction with a single brand. The failure of most apps to offer anything new or different from a Web session means there simply isn't an advantage in approaching a retailer via an app.

So what we've all done many times over is being repeated by many others. We download an app, use it once or twice and then leave it to quietly die on the fourth or fifth screen, some distance away from the useful travel, banking, gaming and social apps we use frequently on our home screen.

This means the retailer app isn't exactly extinct, but in many cases it's certainly undergoing a long, drawn-out confinement that is very quiet and out of sight.

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