Why 74% of the top 50 retail apps are hybrid apps, not native apps

Presented by FollowAnalytics

A full 74% of the top 50 retail apps on the U.S. App Store are hybrid apps according to a recent report: Low Code Explosion.

That means three quarters of the top-performing mobile retailers have decided their best possible approach for winning in mobile is to use a hybrid app development model as opposed to pure native app development — including major global brands and smart tech companies like Amazon, Walmart, Nike, and Target, Etsy, Groupon, and many more.

But why? Isn’t the conventional wisdom that native apps are always better?

Native apps, of course, use only native code for on-device, generally Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java for Android. Hybrid apps use some native code and some web technologies, like HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

The sad fact is that conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong. Especially — but not only — for retail apps.

The reality is that an app is exactly like the tip of an iceberg. When you download and install an app, the phone in your hand shows you 10% of the technology: just what is visible to the naked eye. Under the water (or, more accurately, in the cloud) the infrastructure behind that app is enabling a great experience. We’re talking about the catalog of products, the customer single-sign-on, the record of purchases, the access to support, the shipping information … all the infrastructure that isn’t immediately visible.

Most retailers and ecommerce players built all the infrastructure for the web a decade ago and have been perfecting it ever since. Rebuilding it for mobile — and then forevermore supporting two versions of your company’s key commerce infrastructure — is just a waste of time and money. Worse, it presents an ongoing opportunity cost to agility and flexibility in the face of changing business realities.

With hybrid apps, brands can leverage all these investments. They don’t have to throw them away. In fact, they become the foundation of a unified customer experience no matter where customers want to engage. Web? Great. Mobile app? Excellent … the products are the same, the support is the same, the shopping cart is replicated, and the user account with prior purchases is all shared.

But don’t these brands want to present the best possible experience for their customers? Of course they do.

And now, with the magic of modern hybrid apps, fast connectivity, and low-code development tools, they can have their cake and eat it too. Modern hybrid apps react just like native apps: instantly. They provide everything that users need — and your brand wants to deliver — for a full native-quality mobile experience.

But they do so while also leveraging the investments already made.

The other major advantage is speed, thanks to the ability to use low code development platforms like FollowAnalytics Build. Hybrid apps can simply be built quicker, and that’s a major competitive advantage.

“It really comes down to the environment … and speed to market,” says Seth Winters, VP of digital innovation at doTERRA, a health and wellness company.

Going native would have taken his company 3-4 years given a complex backend, he said in an episode of the Low Code Ninjas podcast. But building a complex B2B, B2C, and B2B2C hybrid retail app in a low code development environment from FollowAnalytics took his team just three to four months.

“It’s just incredible the rate at which we can do it,” Winters says.

I know this is true because we’ve done it for many clients, including Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company. They wanted a full ecommerce mobile app, and we built it using our platform in less than three weeks. In fact, it’s so fast and so easy to build high-quality mobile apps using FollowAnalytics Build that our sales reps will often build a 90%-complete retail app for possible customers just before a sales meeting.

People who use our low code development environment get more than just the ability to not throw away a decade of ecommerce investment. They also get a huge number of features out of the box, “for free,” immediately. Things like native navigation, Touch ID or Face ID, Apple Pay or Google Pay, barcode scanning, push notifications, in-app messaging, geolocation, video broadcasting, and so much more.

One of our clients, FITNESS SF, is now using our scheduling and video broadcasting capabilities to deliver fitness instruction to the thousands of members who can’t be in their gyms in person right now.

But it’s not just about features.

Look, features are important. But ultimately, a quality user experience is critical. In fact, implementing a feature, even a basic one, and failing to deliver it in a quality way can sink your app in terms of ratings. Online reviews on the App Store or Google Play are no different than restaurant reviews: angry or upset people are much more likely to leave reviews than people who generally enjoyed themselves: generally, if all goes well, users won’t leave a review because that’s the expected situation.

Getting use experience right matters. Getting customer service right is critical. Doing it quickly — especially during COVID-19 — is essential.

Which is why hybrid apps that use your existing infrastructure and can be built quickly with low-code tools are dominating the top charts for retail apps.

Dig deeper: Get the full Low Code Explosion report here.

Samir Addamine is Founder of FollowAnalytics.

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