Mobile has dominated the markets in the Gulf countries for some time now and this reflects in the mobile penetration figures for the region; 76% of the population here are mobile subscribers.
Adding to this is the growing number of the Generation Z in the population mix, a demographic that spends more time on their mobile devices than any other generation, Criteo found. In the Middle East, youth under 24 years of age make up about half of the total population. Gobally, about three quarters of this generation has been found to prefer online shopping.
These trends make the case for further investments by retailers and advertisers into mobile shopping. Even then, one pressing question remains: between mobile websites and apps, where should retailers’ focus lie?
In the Middle East, the trend is quite clear. When I speak to retailers in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, there are no doubts about having an app. In fact, it is quite the opposite, with the general feedback being – “Why not? It’s intuitive!”
The UAE has largely skipped the desktop era and committed itself to m-commerce with rapid steps. Online shopping takes place here on mobile devices and, whenever possible, in apps.
Browsers dominate the desktop, but apps dominate the smartphone
What do retailers mean by “intuitive”? It can’t be that apps are easy to use, because the mobile web is too. The answer lies rather in how we as consumers use our smartphone. In the morning, I do not open the browser like I would on the PC to start a search. Instead, I open an app, mostly for the news or the weather. It is prominently displayed on my screen, so I click on it “intuitively”. This usage behavior is bound to reflect sooner or later in the way I shop on mobile. Apps are the first thing I see on the screen – so retailers must be present here.
The argument here can be that no user will download hundreds of apps. And if he does, he deletes rarely used apps again owing to space constraints. He will likely only keep the top 15 of his most used apps: Weather, News, Email, Music, Fitness and the like. It is thus necessary for a retailer to make it to this relevant and indispensable set. Even though many might doubt this, I believe that a shopping app can become indispensable for users. But how?
The content makes the app, not the other way around
Pure sales apps without any added benefits and experience will have a hard time on the long term as users usually only install and permanently keep shopping apps they regularly use. How would the app of say, a sports retailer belong here? Being a big tennis fan, I regularly buy new equipment – not weekly or monthly, but rather 2-3 times a year. As an occasional buyer, I do not necessarily need an app.
As a retailer, it is therefore important to find ways to motivate me to download the app and lead me back to it regularly. The key word here is content. Retailers should establish their app as THE place to visit for information on their topic. Staying on this example, here are some suggestions:
– Background reports on tennis trends or on products and brands: Many retailers already have content marketing teams, so why not bring their capabilities into the app?
– Live ticker for tennis events and follow-up reports on matches: This is a bit more elaborate, but if I know that the retailer’s app offers me this information, I won’t need an additional sports app.
– Information about tennis clubs and tournaments in my area
– Involvement of partners: Why not connect the ticket shop of a tournament via an API? Or offer the possibility to order a taxi directly within the app, which brings me to the desired tennis club?
– Weather services: Should I book a court in the hall or outside for the weekend?
– Integration of Augmented Reality (AR): This might be a future topic, but to get information on tennis players live on the screen while watching the game; or on a player’s racket, including the ability to buy one instantly, is an unbeatable attraction.
Moving away from serving demand towards generating demand
Such an app would not only give me everything from a single source, but would also pique my interest about products I’m unaware of. As a result, I would buy more frequently with this retailer. Generating demand is thus extremely important for today’s retailers, as they secure more customers by not limiting themselves to merely serving demand.
Content-driven shopping apps have all the prerequisites for becoming true inspirational machines that can win the hearts of consumers and, above all, occupy them permanently. Of course, investment for retailers wouldn’t be small, but the benefits start with an increase in sales and advance to brand awareness, and a high level of customer loyalty even in highly competitive market segments.
Alexander Gösswein is Regional Managing Director DACH, MEA & Russia, Criteo
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