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Shopping Apps: Gamechanger for Cross-Border E-Commerce?

by Editorial Office

The demand for shopping apps by European customers has increased significantly during the Corona pandemic. Cross-border e-commerce providers should thus take advantage of the trend to navigate potential customers to their store. Mobile apps are becoming an increasingly important sales channel – in the B2B environment, as well.

In search of options to shop as conveniently as possible without the risk of infection, European consumers have increasingly turned to shopping apps provided by e-commerce retailers or brands in recent months. Apparently, they prefer the mobile apps, which they operate via smartphones or tablets, to websites. After all, apps generally offer a more personal shopping experience. Likewise, payment channels are supposed to be operated particularly securely and fast. Various studies, such as the one conducted by Airship, a provider of customer management solutions, shed light on the changes in shopping behavior and app use. Regional differences within Europe are striking.

Customers use significantly more shopping apps

In terms of the increase in mobile app usage, Northern and Western European countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Belgium are very advanced. According to Airship’s report “The State of Global Mobile Engagement 2020.”, the number of apps per user in the above-mentioned countries increased by more than 50 percent during the pandemic. In comparison, growth in countries such as Austria and Switzerland was much lower at 35 percent and 17 percent, respectively. When it comes to app usage, Germany ranks at the bottom with 15.7 percent. 

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Push messages generate more response

At a time of widespread, pandemic-related restrictions, more attention is also being paid to push messages. These are sent to customers to encourage mobile shopping with special offers and discount promotions. According to the aforementioned study, average direct open rates after receiving such messages increased by nearly one-third (29 percent) globally between March and June 2020. In a Europe-wide comparison, the click rate increased most significantly in Austria (91 percent), Belgium (64 percent) as well as France (62 percent) and Switzerland (59 percent). In Germany, four out of ten customers were motivated to open a shopping app directly by receiving a push notification.

Growing potential – also in B2B e-commerce

The enormous potential of e-commerce apps seems to lie primarily in the area of end consumers. Yet the sales channel also opens up promising opportunities for B2B retailers to address customers. Certainly, the implementation of a business app is more complex compared to B2C offers, since products and services usually require explanation and customer-specific pricing and discount systems are necessary. Providers should consider additional functions such as order interruptions, user changes, returns management or orders on commission.

In the age of Corona, however, digital sales channels have become essential when trading with European business and corporate customers. More and more buyers are using mobile devices and expect to be able to go through all the steps of their customer journey digitally, from initial consultation to purchase. Internationally active B2B providers are therefore well advised to provide their own web store as a supplementary business app, which trading partners can use to obtain detailed information and advice and to make purchases directly.

Shopping app: Be innovative and visible

Alas, shopping apps are not a new trend: A few years ago, in a study conducted by commerce marketer Criteo, European retailers stated that they generated almost half of their mobile sales via the app. As the willingness to shop via smartphone has continued to increase during the pandemic, brands and e-commerce providers should increasingly focus on in-app sales. In this context, the ones that enable a positive shopping experience will be more likely to hold their own against a growing competition. Among other things, the use of new technologies should be considered for this purpose: Artificial intelligence in particular is increasingly being used to personalize offers for customers and thus drive up sales.

To increase awareness, international companies should specifically promote their app offerings on digital channels. Incentives are also needed for the time after installation so that customers actually use the app for m-shopping – for example, through push messages.

Seamless shopping based on the Chinese model

Nevertheless, selling exclusively via a shopping app should not be the goal. Ideally, customers should be able to enjoy a seamless or at least comprehensive shopping experience across all available sales and distribution channels. Technology pioneer China and the example of WeChat show how successful the concept can be: the Chinese people’s favorite app more than doubled revenue from transactions via its “mini-programs,” which allow companies to integrate e-commerce and other services directly into the ecosystem in 2020. The mobile channel generated 1.6 trillion yuan – nearly $250 billion. 


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