Retailers Should Kill Their Apps

Aaron Strout argues for retailers to develop optimized websites and against creating apps. His argument centers on two issues. One, a retailing app does not clear the warranted reasons list. Two, app usage appears more hedonic in nature than utilitarian.

In the first issue, Strout outlines three hurdles for an app to clear, including:

  1. Urgency. When you think of apps that address urgency, consider real-time traffic or location data, stock information, banking information or other similar data...
  2. Repetitiveness. ...This might also be the case for an app that helps pay for parking meters, checks weather, or even your e-mail client...
  3. Boredom. This obviously plays more into the “game” or “entertainment” space.

Few if any retailer's app clears those three hurdles. Hence, most retailers should stop supporting or developing an app.

In the second issue, Strout concludes that people use apps for entertainment purpose. Shopping, here, though is not a form of entertainment. Instead, entertainment revolves around social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or games.

Strout's post corresponds to an analysis that Dr. David Taylor and I performed, which was recently published as well as shared at an analytics forum (see slide deck below). In this research, we found that how recently a consumer had been to the store would amplify the relationship between intention to use a retailer's app and completing a purchase from that retailer as well as share information. We conclude that app develop and support make little sense for most retailers.