Survey: 1 in 3 U.S. Consumers Prefer Mobile Shopping Apps to All Other Channels - NewStore (2023)

In 2021, time spent in mobile shopping apps rose to nearly 100 billion hours globally. Yet, many retail brands are still asking if they need a mobile shopping app or if a mobile-optimized website can provide consumers with the experience they want.

To learn more about the growing interest in mobile shopping apps, NewStore conducted a 2022 survey of 610 American consumers. The survey defined mobile shopping apps as apps created by specific brands, such as Nike or H&M, and not marketplace apps like Amazon, Walmart, or Target. Our findings revealed that an app is much more than a nice-to-have for brands. It’s a must-have.

Consumers are not only using mobile shopping apps with increased frequency, but it’s the preferred shopping method for many, including key demographics such as women and consumers under 44.

Today, nearly 9 in 10 consumers have at least one mobile shopping app installed on their phone and half of users use mobile shopping apps at least a few times a week. The number one reason consumers are using apps over other channels is the user experience. To sum it up, mobile shopping apps are easier to use, more seamless, and offer new and unique features.

Key findings:

  • 31% of consumers prefer shopping in-app to shopping in-store or via a mobile or desktop website
  • Mobile shopping apps are the preferred way to shop for key demographics:
    • 18-29 year olds
    • 30-44 year olds
    • Consumers with more than 4 shopping apps
  • 60% of consumers prefer mobile shopping apps over mobile websites due to improved user experience
  • 45% of consumers would not download a brand’s app if they have concerns about security or privacy
  • 71% of consumers are ‘very interested’ or interested’ in mini apps (i.e., apps that don’t require downloading)

Read on to learn more about what our survey reveals about consumer adoption and use of mobile shopping apps.

Overwhelming majority of consumers use mobile shopping apps

Almost all consumers (88%) have at least one shopping app on their phone. Half of consumers have more than four, and 9% have more than 10.

Not surprisingly, consumers under 44 are bigger users of mobile shopping apps than those 45 and older. Consumers 18-44 are more likely to have mobile shopping apps installed on their smartphone and a greater number of them.

Compared to 75% of consumers over 45 years old, 96% of 18-44 year olds have at least one mobile shopping app. 61% of 18-44 year olds have more than 4 mobile shopping apps compared to 39% of 45+ year olds.

More than half use them weekly

Consumers with mobile shopping apps installed on their smartphones are using them frequently. Overall, 15% of consumers use them daily, 37% use them a few times a week, and 26% a few times a month.

Consumers 30-44 years old, and those with at least four mobile shopping apps, are the most frequent users.

Better user experience drives app adoption

The most popular reason people choose to use a brand’s mobile shopping app over its mobile website is that apps offer a better user experience (60%). This is especially true for consumers who have more than four shopping apps, with 70% noting this reason.

Providing a great experience has always been pivotal for retail brands. A mobile shopping app can provide users with a shopping experience that’s far better than what they’d find on a mobile website, offering faster load times, easier navigation, and features that allow consumers to deepen their relationship with a brand.

There are other key factors influencing consumers to choose mobile shopping apps as well, including better promotions/discounts (51%), access to exclusive products (30%), better loyalty programs (30%), and better customer service (23%).

Security concerns, not wanting more apps biggest barriers for app adoption

Concerns about security and privacy top the list of reasons consumers would not want to download a brand’s mobile shopping app (45%). Given the interest from consumers in mobile shopping apps, retail brands should focus on demonstrating the safety of their app to ease concerns and drive adoption.

Consumers also lose interest in mobile shopping apps that don’t deliver on their expectations. 39% of consumers say they would not download a mobile shopping app that doesn’t have better features than the brand’s mobile websites (39%).

Additional reasons consumers choose not to download a brand’s shopping app include not wanting more apps on their phone (43%), lack of phone storage (31%), and download time (17%).

Mini apps could be a solution

Mini apps, or more specifically Apple App Clips and Google Instant Apps, can be used without having to download or install a brand’s full app. They give a consumer immediate access to important app features by simply tapping an NFC tag or scanning a QR code.

71% of consumers are ‘very interested’ or interested’ in being able to use this kind of instant app on their smartphone. Mini apps could be a way for brands to get consumers who do not want or are hesitant to download more apps on their smartphones to still utilize important features of their mobile shopping app experience.

Mobile shopping app is preferred way to shop for key demographics

Consumers nearly equally prefer to shop in-store to in-app, followed by mobile websites and desktop websites.

Nearly one-third of consumers do prefer mobile shopping apps over in-store. And so do certain customer segments. 18-29 year olds, 30-44 year olds, and consumers who have more than four apps, ranked mobile shopping apps as their preferred way to shop.

Given the number of consumers who prefer to shop via mobile shopping apps, it’s crucial that retail brands provide this channel.

Survey: 1 in 3 U.S. Consumers Prefer Mobile Shopping Apps to All Other Channels - NewStore (1)

Shopping habits in mobile shopping apps

Consumers 18-44 years old and those with more than four apps installed on their phone are more likely to browse and purchase products in mobile shopping apps.

96% of 18-44 year olds would be likely to browse products compared to 84% of 45+ year olds. Similarly, 96% 18-44 year olds would be likely to purchase products compared to 85% of 45+ year olds.

For consumers with more than four apps, we see an even greater interest in browsing and purchasing products; 98% would be likely to browse products and 99% would be likely to make a purchase.

It’s clear that these customer segments, whose preferred way of shopping is via mobile shopping apps, are actively using mobile shopping apps to research and buy products.

Overall, 91% of consumers say they would likely browse products in apps. They are most likely to browse for clothing (64%), shoes (55%), accessories (44%), and furniture (42%).

Similarly, 91% of consumers say they would likely purchase products. They are most likely to purchase clothing (62%), shoes (50%), accessories (46%), and toys (35%).

For the most part, the products consumers are interested in browsing and purchasing are aligned. Furniture is an exception here. Furniture brands should take note that there is a strong interest from consumers in being able to browse furniture on a mobile shopping app; however, they are less inclined to purchase it. Augmented reality (AR) technology, which could for instance allow shoppers to see how a couch would look in their living room, could help furniture brands make shoppers feel more comfortable purchasing items through apps. Brands like IKEA and Wayfair have added AR features to their apps to boost consumers’ confidence when shopping on smartphones.

Most important mobile shopping app features to consumers

Overall, consumers showed a great deal of interest in the various shopping app features that we asked about. Based on our findings, it is evident consumers value having increased access to store and product information and an elevated in-store shopping experience.

Below are the features most important to consumers and that we recommend any brand’s mobile shopping app contain in order to deliver the value and experience customers expect. This list was created based on the features that customers are most likely to say are ‘extremely important’ or ‘important’ to them.

Top 10 features every mobile shopping app should have:

  1. Detailed product information, such as colors and sizes
  2. Coupon and discount code management
  3. Loyalty or rewards profile management
  4. Store locator with hours, location, services, etc.
  5. Detailed, real-time inventory information for products in every store location
  6. Store inventory locations on the product detail page
  7. Accessible personal account information, such as purchase history, loyalty profile, size preferences, and payment information
  8. Alerts for shoppers’ arrival to pick up a curbside or in-store order
  9. Special promotions, such as early access to online and in-store promotions
  10. No account creation requirement

Overall, we found that consumers ages 30-44 and consumers with more than four apps are the most interested in the product features we asked about.

Below, we further breakdown the features that consumers say are ‘extremely important’ or ‘important’ to them.

Access to information

Consumers want to have information about stores, products, and their account.

Nearly three-quarters want to be able to research all the details of a product (78%), access information about nearby stores (73%), and see inventory information for products in every store location (72%).

Nearly three-quarters of consumers also want to manage their coupons and discount codes (74%) as well as their loyalty profiles (74%) within a mobile shopping app.

68% want to be able to access personal account information, including purchase history, size preferences, and payment information.

Seamless in-store experience

Consumers are interested in the various ways they can use a mobile shopping app to enhance the in-store experience. When in a store, consumers want to be able to use a mobile shopping app to:

  • Locate products (71%)
  • Alert store of their arrival to pick up a curbside or online order (65%)
  • Check out with an associate (53%) or use self-checkout (46%)
  • Use the phone’s camera to scan a QR code or barcode to learn more about a product (51%)
  • Request help from an associate (44%)

Dynamic in-app shopping experience

When it comes to the in-app shopping experience, consumers value interactive features and furthering their relationship with the brand. Consumers want to be able to:

  • Get early access to new products and limited releases (55%)
  • View interactive product videos and still lookbooks and shop via this feature (51%)
  • Access informational brand and product content that helps them shop (48%)
  • Assemble outfits to see what different combinations of clothes look like together (44%)
  • Create a virtual “closet” that includes products already owned and desired purchases (32%)

Out of all the features we surveyed consumers about, respondents are the least interested in using a mobile shopping app to book a virtual or in-store appointment. However, nearly a quarter of respondents still value these features.

Retail Brands Need to Invest in Mobile Shopping App

The results of this survey demonstrate that brand’s need to have a mobile app, as they are the preferred shopping method for many of their key customer segments. It’s also clear that a subpar app won’t cut it. Consumers want a feature-rich app that supports every step of their buying journey.

Learn more about how a native consumer app can elevate your brand.

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