Shoppers Flock to Apps, Shaking Up Retail

Mobile sales spike as “snacking” turns consumers’ phones into all-day impulse aisle

The Wall Street Journal
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April 14, 2016Hana Pugh, a 29-year-old event planner and new mother, buys most of her household items and baby goods online. But she doesn’t use her computer to shop. Instead, Pugh taps away at her iPhone. “It’s quicker to pull out my phone and click buy than to log on to my computer,” said Pugh, of Bowie, MD, who relies on Inc.’s app for essentials such as diapers and wipes.

Shopping on a small screen used to be a pain. But as consumers spend more of their days glued to smartphones, retailers are getting savvier with apps that ease browsing, offer rewards, suggest the right products and simplify the purchase to one click.

The so-called applification of shopping promises to radically transform the retail industry by creating new shopping habits, reshaping sales tactics, and carving out winners and losers. Instead of placing one big order from a computer, people are increasingly making smaller purchases in short bursts throughout the day on their phones, a phenomenon retailers call “snacking.”

Mobile sales are booming, especially compared with sales gains from desktop computers. Last year, U.S. sales from mobile devices jumped 56 percent to $49.2 billion, doubling the previous year’s growth, according to comScore. Desktop sales still dwarf mobile, reaching $256.1 billion last year, but annual growth slowed to 8.1 percent from 12.5 percent.

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