Mobile apps are a huge facet of the digital revolution, yet retail apps grab a miniscule share of the overall time consumers spend on apps and are concentrated among a few large players like Amazon and Starbucks. Fortunately for brands with a smaller footprint, viable models of success have emerged in both utilitarian apps that drive customer interactions with products and services and those that deepen engagement among targeted, valuable audiences.

To gain a comprehensive view of brands’ mobile app strategies, Gartner L2 tracked both retailers and DTC brands in a new report. Brands were plotted on a two-dimensional grid based on the robustness of their iOS app features versus their paid marketing efforts through the iOS App Store, in-app ad networks and Google search, as well as app banner ads on brand mobile sites. Based on this analysis, brands were placed within distinct quadrants: Leaders, Content-First, Marketing-First, and Laggards.

Leaders integrate premium features such as credit card scanners, in-store modes, and biometrics into their apps, while also leveraging both paid and organic assets to maximize their apps’ discoverability. Leaders turn to app stores, Google search, social media and their own websites to market their apps, and excel at digital innovation and loyalty. Examples from this category include adidas, Domino’s, and Sephora.

Marketing-First brands prioritize paid levers over the app experience itself. These brands defend their own search terms in the app store while also bidding against competitor terms. They make sure to leverage deep linking in Google search as well as banner ads on their mobile sites. Marketing-first brands often lack physical stores, giving them an added incentive to build digital audiences. These brands boasted 154% more downloads on average in 2018, and 482% more than Laggards. Examples include Amazon, Chewy, and Wayfair.

To read about the remaining categories and see how your specific brand scored, view the interactive here.

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