The building blocks of app commerce

As the UK Government brings in a new wave of regulations to try to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, retailers are entering their most competitive virtual holiday season yet. 

It is vital that retailers allocate enough focus and resource to their mobile apps as the channel that will help them stand out and drive conversion. By 2021, mobile ecommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total ecommerce sales

With peak proving more critical than ever online now, optimised mobile web just won’t cut it when customers are looking for tailored experiences built to take maximum advantage of native device functionality. In other words, they are looking for an app. 

Shoppers increasingly rely on apps for their shopping needs, with mobile driving a 43% acceleration in ‘at-home’ activities during this year of lockdowns and 40%+ CAGR forecast for in-app home shopping (2017-2021e).

So, your most valuable customers will likely expect as rich an experience in-app as on the web. Moreover, the right app strategy won’t lose customers to competitive web search. They will come right to you. App commerce – the ability to purchase in-app – offers a way to both connect and enhance your online and in-store customer’s shopping experience, while enabling deeper engagement to foster long-term loyalty. 

Mobile apps can provide the building blocks to building a meaningful, long-term relationship with customers that allow retailers to weather whatever storm comes their way. Here’s how:


The first step for any retailer is defining an easy-to-use app journey. This isn’t just about SEO, the app store plays a big role in this. Apple Search Ads states that 65% of downloads that occur are directly after a search on the app store, so it’s extremely important to ensure that your app is optimised organically to increase visibility on relevant keyword terms and that creative assets are optimised in order to increase conversion of downloads. You can also increase your App Store presence and protect your brand there by supporting your ASO strategy with Apple Search Ads to drive further acquisition and reinstalls of your app. 

Other ways to bring your app to customers’ attention is by advertising on the right channels, including banner and email ads. Initially, retailers should look to their owned media channels to promote their app focusing on a ‘web-to-app’ strategy and converting web visitors into app customers. The focus here should be on explaining the benefits of downloading the app, such as exclusive content or discounts, which will encourage existing customers to become even more loyal.   

Once you have a customer interested in downloading your app, it is essential that the onboarding experience is seamless. When a customer installs the app for the first time give them the option of push notifications to alert them to offers and new items. Additionally, create an easy-to-use and persistence login process to make it easy to access the app often. 


Once a customer has the app, retailers should look to use fun and interactive tools to encourage users to engage with their brand and offering. Retailers can take inspiration from formats that are already familiar to users, such as App Stories – a format made popular by Instagram. Other features such as swipe-to-like can be used in app, providing the opportunity to show off products at scale. Other interactive formats such as shoppable looks and wishlists, which allow users to curate desired products in-app, are great ways to keep users engaged.  

UK-based fast fashion online retailer, Missguided, offers its app commerce customers the ability to “Swipe to Like”.

Consider using engaging creative (beyond the banner) in order for your app to stand out against competitors and captivate consumers. This could take the form of videos or even the gamification of assets to increase interactivity. Offering exclusive app access and discounts, and creating awareness of these promotions ahead of time, will encourage customers to head to the app to ensure they do not miss out.


Of course, having customers use the app and engage through it is only half the battle – the key to a successful app is conversion. The foundation to conversion is ease of use, which is where app commerce really shines over ecommerce. Apps have the ability to learn about customers and personalise the path to purchase, without requiring a user to log in every time they want to shop. It is therefore incredibly important to maintain in-app engagement at all times. Coastal lifestyle retailer, SurfStitch, is using its app to engage its customers wherever they are active, and utilising features such as shoppable stories to convert customers in-app. To eliminate any final hurdles around payment, retailers also need to be seamlessly plugged into trusted native payment systems, such as Apple Pay or Klarna, for example. 


Finally, in order to engage and foster these ‘super customers,’ you must have a clear strategy to keep them coming back to your app. This can be achieved via creating a dynamic home screen app icon that attracts the attention of users and through sending push notifications at appropriate, non-intrusive times about items still in the customer’s basket or to promote relevant deals. Using a mobile measurement partner (MMP) will allow you to gain further insights about your app performance and, more importantly, provide the ability to track and measure campaigns. With these sorts of unique, accurate and real-time insights, retailers can make campaign adjustments in-flight and continuously add unique content they are confident users will engage with. 

One of the most appealing benefits of an app is that it is an entirely owned space for retailers to interact with their most loyal consumers. The data and insights that retailers are able to gather from their apps can be instrumental in business strategy, aiding with new product development, buying and forecasting and helping to tackle fulfillment challenges. By gaining these accurate consumer insights and then adjusting strategy accordingly, retailers can reap the rewards of an extremely loyal app commerce customer base. 

Jay Johnston, CTO, Poq

Back to top button