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This is a guest blog post by Poq, a Demandware Certified Partner.

It’s no secret that mobile is fast becoming a preferred digital shopping device. At the same time, branded mobile retail apps are surging in popularity. In fact, mobile apps in the US account for 44% of the total digital time spent in the retail sector.

Apps have become the highest-performing channel for many retailers, with conversion rates outperforming the desktop. Apps now generate about half of all mobile sales for retailers who have made their app experience a priority, and are expected to drive over 40% of mobile sales for the top US 500 retailers this year.

But what about customers who prefer to shop in store?

With the right functionality and intuitive usability, apps have become valuable tools for in-store shoppers.

Recent research from Poq on app commerce has uncovered three takeaways about app functions that bring the online world into the hands of the in-store shopper:

Integrating loyalty and transactional capability drives sales

No one likes carrying around a wallet full of loyalty cards, and today there are many different ways of taking loyalty mobile. Starbucks was a pioneer in this regard, folding its loyalty program to its transactional app. Other retailers have tried the alternative of building a non-transactional app purely for the loyalty scheme, and a more basic option is offering a card for the device’s digital wallet. Our research shows that one major advantage of offering an integrated shopping app/loyalty scheme, is that customers are twice as likely to make an additional purchase in the app if they use the app to show their loyalty card in-store.

Store finder boosts order sizes

One of the most popular store-related app features is the store finder. Customers using the store finder spend more than twice as long browsing the app than those who don’t use a store finder, suggesting that customers like to research merchandise on the app before traveling to the store. App users who take advantage of the store finder also spend more: their average order value is 1.2 times higher than the average app shopper’s order.

Inventory lookup drives omni-channel shopping

The store stock checker is one of the most valuable omni-channel sales tools because it improves the quality of shopping at multiple points of the customer journey, helping app users check availability of an item before they go to a store. In-store, when used in combination with the barcode scanner, it empowers customers to check whether an item is available in a variation – e.g. in another size or color – without intervention from a store associate. If the item is not in stock, it can be ordered straight from the app while in the store. Customers using this feature are nearly three times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t.

As we head into the busiest shopping period of the year, retailers will leverage their apps to introduce omni-channel capabilities that enhance the shopping experience. One example: House of Fraser has recently made its online catalogues shoppable by adding a ‘Scan to Explore’ feature to its app. To read about other app features that increase engagement and drive sales, read our app commerce report.