App users visit more, stay longer

Shoppers who use apps in-store are visiting more and staying longer, according to a new study by mobile data analytics company Wefi.

Wefi analyzed in-store app engagement of shoppers at 49 stores in the Greater Los Angeles region over a five-month period, including seven major retailers: Costco, Kohl's, Nordstrom, Macy's, Sears, Target and Walmart.

Mobile programs vary in scope and purpose, but engagement is the first priority. So, getting shoppers to use the app while in the store is key. Wefi tracked the number of shoppers who did just that and found (out of the retailers studied) Target had the most in-store engagement with 72.34 percent of app users engaged. Kohl's and Sears ranked second and third with app engagement rates of 53.29 percent and 37.14 percent, respectively.

Kohl's showed the greatest increase in visitors to the store—app users visited 86 percent more than non-app shoppers—although Kohl's Yes2You loyalty program likely contributed to this ranking. The retailer has been integrating its rewards program into its mobile app, and these are the company's best and most frequent shoppers. App use by Kohl's shoppers is up 800 percent since its overhaul.

Target app users visited the store 2.8 times per month, compared to 1.74 visits by non-app shoppers. In an unexplained twist, Nordstrom shoppers with the app actually visited less, 1.2 times per month, compared to those without the app, who came to the store 1.6 times per month. 

      Full Wefi graph and average visit duration graph here.

In some cases, app users remain in stores longer than non-app customers. Wefi found that Macy's saw the most lift with 29 percent of its app users staying longer. Walmart shoppers stayed nearly eight minutes longer than those not using the app (47.95 minutes compared to 40.01 minutes).

Conversely, Costco shoppers stayed just 1.34 minutes longer when using the app in-store.

Wefi analyzed data for some of the largest U.S. retailers, exactly the types of merchants for whom a proprietary app makes the most sense. Some app features may be intended to assist shoppers in navigating the store and finding items more quickly, or to encourage use outside of the store by enabling one-click buying, emphasizing mobile commerce.

The data was collected over a five-month period beginning in January via Wefi's free app, or from partner apps, on about 40,000 users' phones, according to Venture Beat. The information gathered came from Wefi's app, which helps users find free Wi-Fi hotspots, and the partner apps.

Determining a true ROI for a retail app depends on many variables, but mobile initiatives are clearly a priority for retailers today— and for good reason.

For more:
-See this Wefi blog post
-See this Venture Beat story

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