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Comment: Christmas App Appeal

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Will Christmas 2012 be an ‘Appy Christmas’ for retailers? ICM’s latest research reveals that just under one third (28 per cent) of us will download a Christmas related App before December 25th, with the under 35s and those with kids under five the most likely to do so (at 59 per cent). This suggests there is a huge opportunity for retailers to engage with shoppers through Apps. But why does this matter? Analyst firm Gartner says that by 2013, more online search will be conducted on smartphones than on the PC or laptop. So as smartphone penetration continues to soar, there is a huge opportunity for brands to connect with their customers using Apps.

So what are people looking for in their Apps, and how are retailers responding this Christmas? Which retailers have launched festive Apps and what is their potential ‘App appeal’ with shoppers. Here’s our view at ICM.

Our top Apps for Christmas 2012

What is the recipe for success for a good Christmas App? Our online research with people that have downloaded Apps suggests that ‘expected usefulness to me’ is key, with the majority (59 per cent) choosing to download their last App on this basis. ‘How much fun I thought it would be’ follows at 28 per cent. And for those paying for Apps, positive reviews and star ratings are important as they point to longevity – a key issue with many Apps which are quickly redundant.

For this research the ICM team has chosen their favourite Christmas Apps from retailers and other providers that are fun, useful, secure and easy to use (or ‘FUSE’ for short). This includes Apps that help with planning the big day, choosing and buying presents for family and friends, help with festive food buying and preparation and family fun.

Boots Christmas App won us over

Our overall favourite is the Boots free Christmas App which successfully fuses online and offline worlds to help shoppers choose and purchase relevant gifts according to their budget. It’s easy and simple – shoppers can even scan the barcode of products in-store using their mobile to add to their gift list. The other retailer-specific App we like is the Past Times Gift Guide which links straight through to the website. Also worth a mention is the ‘Indulge me’ App that allows users to create their own wish lists to share with friends and family. Not only can people list what they want, they can also suggest where to buy it.

We have been surprised by how few food retailers have released an App specifically for this festive season. Our top choices are ‘Jamie’s Christmas with Bells on’ and the BBC’s ‘Good Food Festive Recipes’, but our favourite is the ‘Great British Chef’s Christmas recipes’ with voice control, search function and notes capabilities. This ticks all the App success buttons – it is fun, useful, secure, easy to use.

Our top choices from the fun Apps this year include ‘Angry Piggy Season’, the simple and addictive ‘Bubble Blast Holiday Edition’, ‘Christmas Countdown Kids 2012’ with its puzzles and advent calendars and the ‘Talking Santa’ free App where Santa repeats what you say in personalised greetings.

Paying the price for Apps

We asked consumers if they pay for Apps. Our research suggests that 23 per cent paid for the last App they downloaded, and the remainder opted for free Apps. Those most likely to have paid for their latest App are more likely to be male, to be 35 or under, to live in London and to be parents – especially of young children. These specific groups intend to download a real variety of apps this Christmas – including fun and games, help with gift shopping and recipes. Interestingly, 27 per cent of parents with children under the age of five intend to download fun and games apps for their kids to use. However for retailer Apps specifically, it’s important that the offer is always ‘free’ – this is the only way to help guarantee that they’ll be downloaded and used.

Whilst ‘fun and games’ tops this list at 11 per cent, retailers should be pleased to see that ‘gift shopping’ at 8% and ‘gift ideas’, also at 8%, are the next two most popular choices. We believe this is further evidence of the viability of retailer-sponsored Apps that can help shoppers at Christmas – and other busy periods – so long as they follow the ICM ‘FUSE’ Rules.

Our research with consumers suggests that Apps are going to become increasingly important tools for retailers, and we expect to see more creative Apps for Christmas 2013. There is plenty of inspiration out there now, and we’d suggest retailers invest in some research this year to prepare for next Christmas. So far this festive season, the Boots App really stands out and sets the bar for others to follow.

Published on Monday 10 December by Editorial Assistant

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