Retailers’ Mobile Apps (…and FOUR potential difficulties)

Is it true that offering Shoppers a branded Mobile App lets traditional Retailers easily enter the digital world, be omnichannel, look good, etc.?

Cancel “easily”, please…

…and let’s talk about some potential difficulties.

Potential difficulty #1

App installation

First thing first: let’s not count on 100% Shoppers installing our Mobile App on their smartphones – we first need to overcome an obstacle called proliferation of branded Mobile Apps, that is, Shoppers have to (utopically) install one branded App for each Retailer they visit (…store/shopping mall/chain of petrol stations/supermarket/…) – dozens and dozens of Apps, actually.

…by the way, this App proliferation reminds me of the “accordion wallets” of many years ago, stuffed to capacity with colored loyalty-cards.

A selection necessarily takes place, so the death-rate of Apps is very high; the exceptions – those few Apps able to separate themselves from the pack and survive – are those that are definitely valuable to Shoppers, those that tangibly improve their shopping-experience.

Potential difficulty #2

App configuration

Once installed, Shoppers typically need to invest some time and brain cells configuring our Mobile App; for example:

1) link the App to our loyalty-program; no loyalty-card? …no joy… (…the App is almost useless, then…)

2) do opt-ins: accept/activate geo-location, notifications, Bluetooth (for Beacons?), privacy-rules and so on

3) enter (additional) personal data


Potential difficulty #3

Troubleshooting & support

Since no two smartphones are the same (they’ve different OSs, different versions of the OS, different hardware, etc.) expect some troubles – I can assure you that an App on Android behaves quite differently compared to an “identical” App on iOS.

Do we have some sort of user-support in place? Are our store-employees able to answer “technical” questions about our App and Mobile devices? …do some troubleshooting…?

Potential difficulty #4

Back-end integration

What I described so far are shopper-facing (or front-end) potential issues; as a matter of fact, back-end issues are even more challenging – the basic principle is: to be effective, a Retailer’s Mobile App has to be thoroughly, efficiently and effectively integrated with the Retailer’s IT system.

Why? Because information offered by our App must be updated in real-time: think of stock-availability, flash-promotions, loyalty point-balance and so on.

It’s easier said than done: often our IT systems are buried under layers upon layers of legacy operational systems and interfaces. I speak from experience: I know several Retailers employing enterprise solutions that are more than 20 years old.

It is evident that unrelated, pachyderm legacy systems – implemented initially to solve specific problems for specific channels – are not equipped to effectively serve connected, Mobile consumers.

Andy Cavallini  –



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