Businesses and Mobile Apps: Leveraging on Consumer Behaviour

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By Dr. Hong Kay Tze and Georgia Lai Xing Yen

We are living in an era where people are accustomed to utilising their mobile devices. Mobile applications is a fast-growing sector that has offered a positive impact on marketing globally. According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), smartphones are the most used device to access the internet (Figure 1) and for online shopping (Figure 2) in Malaysia.

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Figure 1: Smartphones are the most used device to access the internet in Malaysia [1]
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Figure 2: Smartphones are the most used device for online shopping in Malaysia [2]
Corresponding to Muller (2021), it is predicted that the number of smartphone users in Malaysia will continue to grow from 31.32 million users in 2022 to 33.46 million users in 2025 (Figure 3). Therefore, businesses are now developing branded mobile applications to build their revenues, draw more potential consumers and change the way they interact with consumers. Thus, the key question here is: Will the revolution of branded mobile applications continue to emerge, and the usage of these applications become ubiquitous in the near future?

expected smartphone users in Malaysia from 2015 to 2025 marketing magazine asia
Figure 3: Number of expected smartphone users in Malaysia from 2015 to 2025 [3]
Distinct from mobile websites, branded mobile applications comprises an array of interactive abilities that permits businesses to engage, interact, and innovatively produce content. For example, the Sephora Virtual Artist provides consumers to see themselves virtually with full-face makeup before purchasing goods.

This not only helped consumers to make a better decision on their purchases but has allowed businesses to increase their interaction with consumers and improved sales. Also, the high level of engagement via these branded mobile applications may heighten the effectiveness of the advertising messages.

In fact, businesses have embraced branded mobile applications as part of their communication strategy to attract new consumers and enhance brand loyalty through in-app rewards via points earned. It was found that branded mobile applications such as Hermo had 625,419 visitors in the 4th Quarter 2018 [4] and Zalora had 290,000 visitors in March 2020 alone [5].

Hence, how can businesses boost consumers’ purchases via branded mobile applications by upholding their effectiveness?

There are three key factors towards consumer adoption to use branded mobile applications for purchasing.

First, consumers are more likely to increase their purchases using mobile applications that are simple, straightforward, and trouble-free. In other words, consumers should not be placing much effort or require help from an expert while utilising the branded mobile application.

In ensuring ease of use, the app should avoid complex words and jargons, but use terms that are easily understood, coupled with visually pleasing designs and easy-to-read pages.

Graphics, illustrations, or pictures should be eye-catching, and manoeuvring within the app should be effortless and fast loading. Not forgetting, descriptions of the goods or services offered ought to be detailed and clear, so that consumers are able to obtain all information needed for their purchase decision-making process.

Second, the trustworthiness of the application is vital as it influences the purchasing decision. With trust, consumers believe that the app will be a reliable platform and that will eventually build a long-term relationship.

To improve consumer’s trust, the branded mobile application must live up to the commitments that the app has promised to its consumers. Information provided on the app should be dependable, and conducting transactions within the app should be hassle-free. The app should portray sophistication yet be professional and modern.

At times, consumers are hesitant to provide their personal information which is inevitable in the mobile shopping experience due to privacy issues and not being able to feel, touch or taste the goods.

Hence, a stable payment gateway should be made available to consumers to assure consumers that transactions are safeguarded, with a seamless and quick checkout process, and give them confidence that the application is legitimate.

Encouraging consumers to leave reviews and feedback in the application is also one practical way to increase consumers’ trust in the application, as consumers are able to read feedback from other users, and thus will be more confident in providing their personal data during mobile purchasing.

Third, consumers want convenience provided by the branded mobile application. Convenience refers to the elements that are able to create time and place efficacy. Consumers value the convenience of being able to find the right products easily on the app, examine the goods by looking at images and reading descriptions, reading the reviews of the products, tracking the arrival of their products, effortlessly cancelling orders, returning goods, receiving refunds without frustrations, and ability to resolve disputes quickly via the application.

Branded mobile applications are successful when they can get consumers to perform purchases. However, businesses may face the risk of app fatigue, as consumers are now presented with numerous new applications that they do not need or does not give value to them.

Eventually, consumers will be overwhelmed and not download any supplementary apps, as additional apps in mobile phones would just take up more space.

Research shows consumers install approximately 80 apps on average, but only 9 apps are used in a day and 30 apps are used in a month. This means that approximately 62% of these apps are unused and 25% of apps are only used one time after installation.[6]

Therefore, consumers adaptation to mobile purchasing is dependent on whether the app can meet consumers’ expectations and needs in view of usability such as solving a problem or offering a valuable feature, the ease of comprehension, expediency, and reliability.

More than ever, consumers highly regard the convenience that an application can offer them, in terms of purchasing, paying, completing a task, and the support the app could provide to ease consumers’ lives.

While the innovation of branded mobile applications will carry on expanding, a new emerging trend of super-apps is coming to light to bring convenience to consumers and mitigate app fatigue among consumers, such as Grab and WeChat.

Ultimately, businesses will be compelled to jump on this trend to satisfy the ever-changing needs of consumers.

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