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GUEST OPINION Retail apps missing out on the Google search opportunity 

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Retail apps are on the up, but there is still the big issue around how to get people to find your’s, open it and keep opening it. Well Google’s App Indexing may hold the key. Here Lars Hartkopf, Marketing Director EMEA at Searchmetrics, talks us through what it is and how it could work for your retail business

With so many mobile apps available to consumers, the big challenge for any retailer has always been getting people to use their apps on a regular basis. Even if someone has downloaded your app, how do you get them to open it up and to keep coming back to it? Data from Google points out that the average person only uses 26% of their apps daily, while one in four apps are never used at all.

So, imagine how great it would be if Google could sense when consumers have your company’s app installed on their phones or tablets and is able to automatically show them pages from that app in its search results if they run searches related to products or services you supply?

You can stop imagining, because Google is already able to do this using something it calls app indexing, which any retailer with an app can benefit from as long as they have provided Google with the necessary information and permission to ensure their app supports it. Here are three key ways app indexing can add value to retailers‘ app marketing strategies:

  • Increase traffic, engagement and purchases

If your app supports app indexing, Google‘s search engine can read the pages within the app and display them in mobile search results (alongside the traditional links to websites that have always been there). If your app is already present in the user’s device, Google’s search result includes the app icon and consumers are able to click straight into the app, increasing the traffic, engagement and the potential for purchases made via the app.

  • Drive more app downloads

If someone does not have your app on their device, it could still feature in Google’s search results as a suggested app they should consider installing – providing the search engine giant feels the app has content relevant to the searcher’s query. So enabling app indexing has the potential to drive new downloads of your app as well.

  • Rank higher in search results

Google has indicated that apps that are indexed through app indexing could rank better or “more prominently” in mobile search. So supporting app indexing could help you rank higher in mobile searches than other relevant online content. This makes good sense because Google wants to send searchers to the best possible destinations and while mobile websites are improving, the overall browsing experience within an app is a little more user-friendly and faster.

Despite the above benefits and the fact that Google has been offering app indexing (also known as deep linking) on iOS since May 2015, and on Android since October 2014 it’s not something many retailers are taking advantage of. A new study by Searchmetrics indicates, that only 30% of top website owners who offer an Android app have implemented support for app Indexing. Even fewer – just 19% – of those offering Apple iOS apps were found to be supporting deep linking.

To make their in-app content searchable and to take advantage of the other benefits of Google app indexing, retailers need to provide the search engine with data about the relationship between individual pages of their app and the pages on their website – and to allow Google to crawl and index the content within their app (just as it does with the pages of a website). This process requires the help of a web developer and for larger sites with lots of pages it can be a lengthy task. However it’s surely worth the effort. If you are an online retailer and you want phone and tablet users to engage with your app and potentially buy from you, then getting them to use your app can be very rewarding.

If you are still sceptical about all of this, then consider this: recent research estimates that 54% of transactions made via mobile devices happen though apps – and mobile app users are more engaged and much more likely to convert than mobile web users. In fact the study indicates that conversion rates through mobile apps are 120 percent higher than conversions through mobile browsers.

Moreover, last year Google revealed that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. This means search is an increasingly natural way for mobile users to find content and this is especially true when they want to find out about products they are thinking of buying. For example, US research by Searchmetrics in the last Christmas shopping season found that 44% of consumers planned to use Google to research their festive gift purchases online – 67% said they would be doing it on their phones, with 20% claiming their phone was the only device they would be using.

So if you are a retailer and your in-app content has not been made searchable by enabling app indexing, you are likely to be missing out on that natural way to help consumers discover your product pages and content within your apps.

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