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Smartphone apps are an important way for brands to engage with consumers, however a new study has found that many brands are falling short on the user experience.

The Xtreme Labs Retail Apps Report found that just under a third of top 100 US retailers don’t have smartphone apps, while those that do suffer from issues such as a lack of features. 

The average rating achieved by iOS apps in the App Store is 2.9 stars out of five, while on Google Play it is just 2.2 out of five.

On iOS the most common complaints were a lack of features (26%), frequent crashing (23%), and poor design (22%).

Android users suffered similar problems, with crashing being the main complaint (33%), followed by the app not working as intended (26%) and a lack of features (25%).

Pharmacists Walgreens and CVS Caremark were the only brands that received favourable ratings across both operating systems. Both provide utility apps that include features that are useful on a daily basis.

For example, the Walgreens app includes a loyalty card, exclusive mobile coupons, medication reminder tool, in-store maps, a prescription ordering system that uses a barcode scanner, and a photo-ordering tool.

A separate consumer survey from Adobe found that the most popular features in smartphone apps are money saving offers, a store locator and the ability to purchase directly from the app.

We looked at four of the UK’s top retailers and found that their apps all include links to the store finder on the homepage and use GPS to show outlets in the user’s local area.

The Xtreme Labs Report also reveals that Chick-fil-A, Ikea and Subway receive favourable ratings on iOS, while Amazon, Nordstrom, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy perform well on Android.

The study found that 30% of America’s top retailers don’t have mobile apps, which it suggests is a missed opportunity and means these brands will be losing sales to competitors.

However this obviously doesn’t take into account whether or not these brands have mobile optimised websites, which can be equally effective in capturing mobile sales.

Just over half of the retailers surveyed (56%) provided apps on both iOS and Android, but overall Apple’s operating system proved to be slightly more popular than Google’s (65% vs. 61%).

The Xtreme Labs Retail Apps Report was conducted from January 16 to January 24 2013 and is based on the list of top 100 US retailers, as defined by industry trade publication STORES Magazine.

David Moth

Published 4 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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