Here’s Why Most Parts Retailers Don’t Need a Mobile App

Mobile apps can be a great marketing tool for specific situations, but generally speaking they’re a bad idea for most auto part retailers. Here’s why:

  1. It’s very difficult to get customers to install them
  2. They’re expensive to develop and maintain, which makes ROI a challenge

Let us explain.

No app parts retailers

Marketing An App Is Like Marketing A Website, Only Harder

Marketing an auto parts website is hard. Yet, marketing an app is arguably harder:

Too many apps

According to Statista.com, there are more than 3 million Apple and Android apps.

  • There are already a LOT of apps. There’s nothing wrong with jumping into a crowded competition, but the bigger the crowd, the harder it is to stand out.
  • The app marketplace is fractured. Building an app that works on the Apple and Android platforms can be difficult, let alone Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Yet if you don’t try to make your app universal, you miss out on opportunities. There are also different screen sizes to deal with, which further fragments the app marketplace.
  • Users are reluctant install apps. There’s a lot of “friction” involved in installing an app, so people are reluctant to do it. First, installing an app requires confirming that you really want the app, and that includes authorizing the app’s functions and control over your device. Then, if your device’s memory is full, you have to delete another app to make room. Then there’s app download and install, which can take a while on some networks or devices. Then there’s actually launching and using the app, which often requires registration. Lots of steps lead to reluctance.

While there are certainly some good reasons for retailers to have an app – the shopping experience in an app is often better than on a mobile site, and push notifications can be great for generating sales – getting users to install your app isn’t easy. Most retailers resort to big incentives to encourage app use, which can be a high price to pay considering all the money that goes into developing an app in the first place.

App ROI Is Uncertain At Best

As you can probably guess, developing and then testing an app to ensure quality and compatibility is an at least five-figure investment. This cost has to be compared against the revenue that an app can generate, and often times that math doesn’t back out.

  1. App development (and testing) is surprisingly expensive
  2. The costs involved in marketing your app can also be substantial, especially if you have to give away a big discount to get people to install
  3. Once the app is live, you have to pay to maintain the app’s code so that it’s compatible with new devices and operating systems
  4. 98% (!) of consumers will uninstall your app within 30 days (on average)

Apps bad investment

That last point is the real killer – 98% of people who install your app will uninstall it after 30 days. It’s broken down in detail on AndrewChen.co, but here are the app uninstall stats:

  • 86% of the people who install a new app will uninstall it in 24 hours or less
  • 90% of the people who install a new app will uninstall it in 1 week
  • 98% of the people who install a new app will uninstall it in 30 days

While this 98% uninstall rate doesn’t speak to usage – perhaps everyone that download the app will use it at least once – it illustrates the costs and challenges involved in marketing an app. Even if you can get people to download your app, odds are good they’ll uninstall it soon. Will they buy something from you before they uninstall?

Unless You’re Big, Skip The App

When you look at the retailers that are doing well with apps, they tend to have a large customer base (100’s of thousands) that makes the economics of app development and marketing much more favorable. There are smaller retailers that are doing well with apps, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Considering the costs and complexity, ecommerce retailers and/or manufacturers generally don’t benefit from app investments. Instead of spending $10,000+ on an app, it’s almost certainly better to invest in a mobile-friendly (responsive) website and user testing that helps ensure mobile usability, etc.

Finally, a clarification for our app development friends: We’re not saying that all mobile apps are a bad investment. We’re merely explaining that many retailers (and manufacturers) have better places to spend their money than on mobile app development.

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