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Online-first retail apps outstrip other retailer apps in terms of usage growth worldwide, report shows

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In the past year, the total time spent in online-first retail apps worldwide increased by almost 50%, while those retailers with online and bricks and mortar stores managed a 40% increase – the app, it seems, is winning.

So finds a detailed study by App Annie, which finds that, on Android at least, apps from online-first retailers are seeing more sessions per user – and faster growth – than those from bricks-and-clicks companies.

And its is a worldwide phenomenon. Engagement in online-first apps is especially high in South Korea, where the average number of sessions per user was almost three times higher than in any other country. This was driven by apps such as 11st, Coupang and WeMakePrice — marketplaces offering a huge range of products, at competitive prices, with strong vertical integration throughout the retail process.

France had the lowest average sessions for bricks-and-clicks apps, and saw a decline over the past 12 months. However, with the second highest growth in sessions for online-first apps, it’s clear there is demand that traditional retailers can explore. Online-first apps like vente-privee and showroomprive, that offer member-only flash sales, are leading the way — presenting a successful model others can learn from.

Germany, a market that’s traditionally conservative when engaging in electronic transactions, has experienced rapid growth in sessions per user. Big international retailers, such as Amazon, Wish and Geek are seeing particularly high levels of engagement.

In the US, this is likely a factor of a large population and a comparably large mobile install base. However, rapid growth in time spent within both bricks-and-clicks (+55%) and online-first (+60%) apps over the past 12 months indicates the growing success retailers have had leveraging their mobile apps.

There are huge opportunities for traditional retailers prepared to adapt their business models and respond to the new omni-channel retailing landscape, says the report.

Among the compelling reasons to do so are the fact that shoppers are increasingly using multiple channels as a part of the shopping process. Omni-channel customers have been shown to offer higher profitability and larger basket size.

Mobile is also an opportunity to enhance the in-store experience, says AppAnnie. There’s been lot of discussion about the perils of showrooming, yet it seems showroomers are highly likely to make a purchase in the same brick-and-mortar outlet.

“Ultimately, technology has created more opportunities to engage customers in store than ever before, exemplified by retailers such as Walgreens and Walmart, who have shared the importance of apps to their in-store business,” the report concludes. “The message is clear: the mobile disruption of retail has happened.”

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