News this week from Apple that more than 25 billion apps have been downloaded from its App Store would seem to promote the idea that apps are the way of the future. While this may be the case in a number of categories, for retailers the world of apps is a dead end.
But, you say, apps are a great way for mobile and tablet users to engage. Unfortunately, retailer-created apps have failed to gain the critical mass required to pay for their development. I know from talking with a large retailer that their acclaimed app only has 30 to 40 thousand downloads. Compared to their online and in-store shopping numbers, this number of retailer-specific app downloads is pathetic. The hurdle that people have to jump through to find and download the app is a huge issue in its own. And with data throttling on phone plans, you can expect consumers to be more selective in the apps they download.
Besides, when you think of the cost to develop really slick applications for iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. you are talking about the potential to spend tens to hundreds of dollars per customer using the apps. Not to mention that apps are moving so quickly in functionality that after only a few months your app can become stale and need a facelift, which means spending even more money.
The solution for retailers is mobile sites. With HTML5 retailers can develop sites that have app-like interaction but can be updated a lot more easily. This way the retailer allows any visitor on any device to access their mobile site through a browser and the user won’t need to download it from the app store. Decreased company cost for updates and eliminated barriers to consumers makes HTML 5 a win for retailers.