4 Reasons Retail Apps Fail

Sep 1, 2017 2:16:24 PM / by sterling

Its no secret that having a mobile app is increasingly important for almost any business, especially retail. Customers are demanding the convenience and efficiency that an app brings, and this is showing through increased sales, customer satisfaction, and revenue for countless retail companies who invested in a mobile app.

However, there is another side to this story. It has been shown that 80% of all apps never get opened twice, and most of these forgotten apps are deleted forever. Customers are not very forgiving when it comes to buggy, inefficient, confusing, or even just unnecessary apps. Having a bad app can be just as bad, or even worse than having no app at all, as it will drive away customers.

So, what are these retailers doing wrong, and how can you avoid making the same mistakes? Let's dive in:

1. Confusing Interface

Its easy to fall prey to the temptation of making your app too unique in its design and interface. While it is important to have a visually appealing app, it is even more important to have an intuitive and functional design that users will be able to easily navigate. After all, customers want to use your app to make their shopping experience simpler, not more complicated.

Think of the flow that a user would take through your app, and design it such that following this path is as simple and obvious as possible. Don't clutter your app with too many features that are unnecessary for the basic function, and think about what features a customer would actually use.

Ebay is a good example because it's app’s simple layout, clean design, and swipable interface make it really user friendly. eBay’s app also has the ability to upload images and scan bar-codes through a phone’s camera for product information, which serves as a useful addition without cluttering the design.

2. No Added Value

Its important for your app to have some added value that your customers cannot get from your website. Otherwise there is no incentive to download or continue to use it. There needs to be a distinct way in which your app fits into the customer's shopping experience that will cause them to keep coming back.

A great example of an app that does a good job of incentivizing use and improving the customers experience is Victoria's Secret. This app provides users with exclusive flash sales and in-store coupons. These impromptu discounts and deals, when received via an app, give customers a feeling of exclusiveness that keeps them returning to take advantage of the discount.

Another good example is REI's app, which allows customers to pick their favorite brick-and-mortar locations, check product availability, scan barcodes for more information, keep a real-time wish list and read customer reviews. In this way, the app provides a unique set of possibilities that add value to the customers shopping experience.

For smaller retailers, it’s important to think about the steps that will drive customers to do all their research and purchase a product from one retailer. If product availability and reviews are what your customers seek most, it’s important to prioritize those features. Find out what your customers will want from your app and how it can add to the shopping experience.

3. Lack of User Interaction

Stemming off of the last point, it can be beneficial to add features that encourage more user interaction which will ultimately lead to increased customer loyalty. This can be some sort of loyalty program that makes users excited to shop with you and gives them a reason to check the app. Often adding an element of gamification can increase user engagement immensely.

A good example of this is Starbucks' app, which uses features such as stars collected by users to reach a free item or the seasonal "Starbucks for Life" Monopoly-like game. Features like these always give consumers a reason to check the app and see how close they are to reaching a reward.

4. Ineffective Push Notification

Push notifications can be a very effective way of reaching your customers with information or updates, and increasing your relevance by reminding users you exist. However, if done incorrectly push notifications can be annoying, unnecessary, and even cause users to delete your app.

It's important to not spam your customers with updates they don't care about, and their phone should not be buzzing all day. Some retail brands are opting to let the user customize their own push notifications. This may include when a favorite item is back in stock or when a new collection becomes available. By doing this, your app refrains from being annoying or unnecessary, but keeps a consistent flow of content going to the user’s phone at their discretion.


Building an app can be risky and costly, but if done right the benefits of having a retail app will greatly outweigh the costs. While it is difficult to always know exactly what a user wants from an app, avoiding these common mistakes can give you a leg up in a world saturated with retail apps.

SandBox Commerce is the most experienced vendor in creating seamless customer journeys, incorporating Native Apps, automated Push Notifications, Email Marketing Integration and Google’s new Progressive Web App best practices.

Topics: E-Commerce


Written by sterling