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Room for improvement?

Polina Modenova investigates the relationship between mobile apps and website merchandising

Is merchandising holding European shoppers back from buying via mobile? Are apps not yet good enough at showing them the products they want to buy? How could retailers improve mobile apps in order to boost sales via mobile?

These are some of the questions we aimed to answer in new research that contrasts forecasts for the growth of mobile commerce with the functionality that is currently available from IREU Top500 retailers.

Understanding the context

Figures from Ecommerce Europe suggest that ecommerce generated revenues of €445.3bn (£373.93bn) in 2015. Around 60% of those sales were transacted with traders in the UK, France and Germany.

At the same time, mobile commerce accounted for $45bn (£37.78bn). A 2017 Mobile Shopping Focus report from Salesforce Commerce Cloud found that 25% of orders were taken via smartphones in 2016. Mobile commerce will, according to a BI Intelligence report, triple in value by 2020. At the moment, though, it seems likely that figure is being held back by the fact that mobile converts at a lower rate than desktop.

The role of merchandising

As yet, mobile – and the smartphone in particular – is still used to browse rather than to buy. In part, that’s likely to be down to the relative lack of ease in checking out online. But could effective use of merchandising help to boost sales by making it easier for shoppers to find relevant products that they would be more likely to buy? Once they’ve found those products, could an improved mobile checkout help shoppers to buy more quickly? Currently, the Salesforce report found, 52% of checkouts on mobile are completed. That’s 11% below the average on all devices, and fell by 1.5% over the previous year.

We focused in our research on the three biggest ecommerce markets of the UK, France and Germany, and we analysed retailers’ mobile merchandising performance in these markets. To do that, we measured the proportion of retailers that offered Android and/or iOS mobile apps, looking in more detail at the functionality that iOS apps offered in those markets.

We found that about half (55%) of all IREU Top500 retailers offered mobile apps. The rate of take-up was higher in the three countries, the UK, France and Germany, that are the focus of this research. Overall, more than three-quarters (76%) of Top500 retailers trade online in these markets. Most (85%) retailers that trade in these markets had a mobile app. All of those that had an app had an iOS app, while 82% of those with an iOS app also had an Android app.

Contrasting performance

We contrasted the functionality that retailers trading in these markets offered via desktop websites with that of their mobile apps.

We found that 58% of retailers offered customer ratings via desktop websites, while 28% offered the same functionality on mobile apps. Some 58% of retailers offered customer reviews, compared to 27% on the mobile app. More than a third (37%) offered the ability to Like a product on desktop sites, while 2% offered this on apps. More than two-thirds (68%) offered the ability to share an item with friends on websites, while 43% offered of retailers this on apps.

Overall, it seems retailers made it harder for customers to interact with social media and to share opinions through mobile app reviews than via websites.

Retailers also illustrated products better on websites than on apps. Some 85% of retailers showed more than one product image on desktop sites, while just over half (51%) did so on apps. The ability to save products for later was also more widely available on websites, offered by 56% of retailers, than on mobile apps (50%).

The United Kingdom

Customer reviews and rating in the UK were available on, respectively, 70% and 67% of websites, compared to 34% of retailers offering the feature on mobile apps. Wishlists were available for 61% of retailers’ websites in the UK, compared to 52% on mobile apps.

UK retailers offered the highest number of websites with ratings and reviews, while German retailers offered substantially fewer customer reviews and ratings on websites, compared to UK retailers.


Customer ratings and reviews were available for 49% of the retail websites and 25% of mobile apps. Availability to Like a product was available on 23% of websites

and on 3% of apps. Shoppers could share items on 60% of websites, compared to 41% of apps. Almost two-thirds (65%) of German websites offered wishlists, compared to 55% of apps.


Customer reviews and rating in France were available on 47% of websites, compared to nearly 20% on mobile apps. Availability to Like a product was available on 36% of websites, compared to 1% of apps. Sharing items was available on 62% of websites, and on 41% of apps. Almost half (47%) of French retail websites offered wishlists, compared to 40% of apps.

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