How retailers can boost business in 2021 by building apps using low code tools

By Malcolm Carroll, Director, BlueFinity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many sectors with retail especially having felt the repercussions of the lockdowns and Tier restrictions on their footfall and their profits.

The difference between bricks-and-mortar retailers versus online has been profound, with online businesses like Amazon having a bumper year, compared with famous high street brands going into administration or closing completely.

A report from Retail Economics[i] state that the implications for the retail sector are vast. They say around a third of British consumers will change the way they shop permanently. Additionally, almost half (45%) of consumers have purchased an item online they had only ever previously purchased in-store, since the outbreak.

The growth in online shopping has led to a proliferation of websites being updated. However, whilst websites can support online purchasing, they are not necessarily able to provide many functions now considered crucial to the smooth introduction of an effective online shopping experience.

Some organisations have been quick to respond to a change in retail behaviour and embrace e-commerce by developing apps. According to mobile analytics firm App Annie[ii] the pandemic “has changed consumer behaviour on mobile forever” highlighting that Covid-19 has driven consumer spending on apps to $50 billion in the first half of 2020, up 10% from the second half of 2019.

But how can apps benefit the retail sector as we move through the pandemic?

The growth of no-code / low-code

The introduction of mobile phone, tablet and desktop computer apps, often working in combination with a website, are becoming increasingly valuable. 

Apps can meet the demands of online shoppers and build customer loyalty.  Once an app is downloaded onto a mobile phone, tablet or desktop, customers can easily return to a chosen supplier time and time again.

Accessing an app is like entering a shop to browse and purchase an item, whereas choosing from a multitude of website retailers is akin to standing in the middle of a market with multiple vendors trying to sell the same item.

Other advantages of having an app compared to just a website include increased security, location-based communication with customers, integrated use of phone technology (GPS, Bluetooth), information retention and display, the personalization of the shopping experience and a far higher conversion to purchase rate when compared to websites.

As a result of these benefits, apps are rapidly moving from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ for retailers of all sizes. Now with the growth of no-code/low-code app development platforms, apps can be easily developed by all retail outlets, no matter their size and their level of technology experience.

Using the right no-code/low-code platform, retailers can design and deploy apps that specifically meet the needs of their company and their customers, and they will not have to employ specialist app developers to do it. Instead, they can use their existing staff, who know their business, to create apps.

These platforms can be affordable, easy to use and enable retailers to develop apps quickly and cost-effectively to stay competitive.

A good low-code platform will have a point and click, drag and drop and option select development process, supported by an array of functional routines and widgets anyone can use.

The results can be sophisticated, full function apps that can run on and can be optimized for any device and operating system (phones, tablets, watches and televisions using IOS, Android and Windows as well as Windows, Linux and Apple desktops) and can be fully integrated with any type of database a retailer has or wants to use (SQL, Oracle, DB2, MultiValue etc.).

Low-code/no-code can provide tremendous results in a fraction of the time of more traditional approaches, but it is also vitally important that the chosen platform should provide an environment where there are no limitations to the future enhancement and development of the app. The platform should provide for the deployment as a web, hybrid or native app and should enable a developer to perform unlimited customization allowing for the use and incorporation of existing code, new code and third party routines and library software. They should also have the option to access and work on the code that is generated by the low-code/no-code design.

One company that used low code tools to develop an app this year is Classic Groundcovers, a wholesale nursery based in the USA that sells plants to nurseries, re-wholesalers and contractors.

They used BlueFinity’s low-code app development system, Evoke, to create an app to digitise its manual ordering system and enable the company to handle a record volume of sales, as the pandemic forced people to stay at home with many turning to gardening.

The company said the app was ‘ground-breaking’ as it has automated their order processing; enabled them to manage a surge in orders, grow the business and halve the administration time.

No-code/low-code opens new possibilities for retailers allowing them to create apps easily without a lengthy and costly development process. Customers are always just one click away on their mobile, tablet or desktop and can shop night and day at their convenience. For retailers looking to build their e-commerce business in 2021 and adapt to the changing world developing an app is a must.

[i] https://www.retaileconomics.co.uk/white-papers/economic-outlook-for-the-uk-retail-industry-and-the-impact-of-covid-19

[ii] https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-08-17-covid-19-drives-first-half-mobile-app-spending-to-usd50b-app-annie

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