5 Advantages of Introducing Self-Service Mobile Apps in Retail
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As businesses around the globe prepare for the impact COVID-19 will inevitably have on their bottom line, businesses in the retail industry will be amongst those affected most. Leaders in this industry are now scrambling to address inefficiencies, discover which business processes can be automated, and ultimately, find ways to cut costs in business. While numerous strategies to improve business performance exist, many leaders fail to recognize the untapped potential that lies within their current mobile strategy.  


A major facet of a majority of mobile strategies is a mobile app. In the retail industry, this is especially evident as many large brands have an app of their own. These apps, typically self-service apps, help to reduce check-out times, accept mobile payments and make things more efficient and convenient for the customer. However, regardless of what your mobile strategy entails, mobility offers businesses a means to not only connect with customers and improve their experience, but to also improve business processes, drive revenue, and cut business costs all at once.


Below we’ll outline the advantages that come with introducing (or improving) a self-service mobile app into your mobile strategy by focusing on two key areas: reducing costs and driving revenue. It is also important to note that while not every retailer will have the budget needed to develop or enhance a custom app that is specifically tailored to their brand and clientele, there are a variety of third-party platforms and solutions that can provide similar benefits. 

The business case for mobile apps

For retailers skeptical of the need for mobile presence and uncertain as to whether having a mobile app can have any significant impact on their business, we’ve pulled some statistics from Hootsuite’s Digital 2020 Global Digital Overview report that showcase the growing support for mobile from consumers.


  • There are currently 5.19 billion unique mobile users globally
  • 91 percent of the time spent on a mobile device is spent using mobile applications
  • 66 percent of mobile users aged 16-64 report using shopping/retail mobile applications
  • The total value of the global consumer (B2C) e-commerce market is $3.43 trillion of which mobile has a 50 percent share

Cutting costs for retail business with self-service mobile apps

Mobile payments/POS

Retailers that choose to introduce a self-service mobile app have a great opportunity to lower their transaction/processing costs as the app will now allow them to accept mobile payments and introduce a mobile POS system. Not only will this eliminate the need to purchase or rent expensive POS equipment in-store, but it also makes the shopping experience more convenient for customers.


Currently, retailers that don’t have this option are stuck paying a fee each time a customer uses a credit or debit card at check-out. This fee is set by the card issuer (the financial institution that issues the card), the card network (i.e. Visa or MasterCard) and the payments processor (typically a third payment company that partners with the financial institutions. i.e. Moneris). This fee is typically a percentage of the transaction amount plus a flat fee, which is approximately set at 1.43 percent to 2.4 percent for Visa and 1.55 percent to 2.6 percent for Mastercard.


Starbucks is a great example of a retailer that has benefited from accepting payments from their mobile app in-store. The Starbucks app encourages users to load funds onto their Starbucks card so that the company only pays processing fees when users send funds to that card, not each time they buy a cup of coffee. The app is only second to Apple Pay in total users and as of the first quarter of 2019, accounted for 12 percent of Starbucks’ total transactions.


Additionally, the mobile payment/POS functionality of the Starbucks app has allowed the company to continue to provide services during the COVID-19 pandemic. With restaurants being forced to adopt a take-out or delivery-only model, having the infrastructure already in place to accept mobile orders and payments has put the company in a position to seamlessly transition and keep business operations running, while many restaurants are completely shutting down. 


As retailers vie for the attention of the consumer by continuously improving their processes to provide an exceptional purchasing experience, having access to consumer data is extremely important in guiding those efforts. This data can also play a vital role in helping leaders decide what business initiatives and marketing campaigns are worth investing in. However, many retailers find it difficult to collect this important data, as they simply don’t have the means. 


A mobile app presents itself as the perfect tool to do this. A self-service app will allow businesses to analyze users’ behavior, including bounce rate, retention rate, and purchase history. Having insights from this data allows business decisions to be based not on assumptions, but proven analytics. This will allow retailers to allocate funds on initiatives that will guarantee ROI and significantly cut on spending in areas that show no potential for ROI. For example, through user data, a business may discover that users chose not to continue with the purchase of one specific product. Based on that insight, they may decide to stop allocating funds to marketing efforts for that specific product and use the funds for another initiative. 

Sales support

Ultimately, a self-service mobile app offers retail organizations the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: increase sales support all the while reducing labor costs. The main functionality of a self-service app is that, to give consumers the ability to address their needs themselves. Self-service apps in retail can include numerous functionalities that allow the customer to easily locate necessary information on their own. 


The ability to see if an item is in stock, view current discounts, and make a purchase from the app without having to go in-store are common functionalities. Having the ability to do so much without going into the store greatly decreases the foot traffic employees may see in-store and in turn, can make it difficult for employers to manage the number of employees needed to meet in-store and online demands. By gathering the data collected from the app, employers will have a better idea of how many purchases are being made online and can then, more accurately match labor supply. Leading retailers taking a data-driven approach to labor scheduling and budgeting can see anywhere from 4 to 12 percent in cost savings while still improving their customer service.

Driving revenue for retail business with self-service mobile apps

Geo-location targeting/push notifications

While a self-service app is one way to reduce costs in a business, it can also present an opportunity to introduce new methods to drive revenue. In many cases, mobile apps are granted a long list of permissions from the user to access built-in device capabilities like camera, contacts, and location. For a business owner, having access to these functionalities, particularly the user’s location, can prove to be a big advantage. Having access to a user’s location allows a retailer to start serving the app user location-based content, and geo-targeted ads, promoting retailer deals specific to that consumer’s location. 


Tailored location-based content can drive business in several ways, for example, a clothing retailer can capitalize on local weather forecasts and serve ads that promote clothing to individual users that appeals to their specific style and correlates to the weather. If it’s the first day of spring, why not promote a new windbreaker that is in stock. Businesses can also use geolocation to help people find the nearest store in the area and see their opening times and facilities. If a user is interested in a certain product, the app can automatically send updates about price, discount or availability without requiring any action from the user. These types of notifications have been proven to increase conversions with Localytics reporting that location-based notifications convert nearly three times as frequently as regular push notifications weekly.

Loyalty programs 

Another advantage retail businesses gain with a retail self-service app is the ability to introduce a loyalty or rewards program. Loyalty programs incentivize customers to keep returning and make purchases more frequently than they normally would. In the retail world, a repeat customer is a golden standard. According to the marketing agency Bond, 73 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs, and 79 percent of consumers say that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with a specific brand. Even more promising is the fact that 66 percent of consumers decide to modify their spending habits with a particular brand to maximize loyalty benefits. As the statistics show, introducing a loyalty program is a great way to not only reward customers but increase traffic and drive revenue. As a bonus, having a loyalty program can also help increase user engagement and retention rates, which are another factor in achieving an increase in business revenue. 


For retailers looking to address inefficiencies and implement strategies to improve business performance, re-examining their current mobile strategy may provide the answer. While it may seem counterintuitive, investing in mobile app development, or improving an existing application can provide the means to drive revenue and cut costs. For retailers, the implementation of a self-service app presents a unique opportunity to not only address the needs of their customers and the demand for a more personalized and quick shopping experience but to also streamline their business processes.