Besides enabling billions of dollars in mobile sales this year? Well, they share four key features and functions that help consumers make the decision to purchase products.

The top five retailers in mobile commerce also have the five mobile shopping apps that generate the most sales. Together these five mobile apps will generate $22.79 billion in mobile sales in 2014, according to the newly published 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500. That’s almost 20% of the estimated $177.78 billion in 2014 mobile commerce sales, on sites and in apps, by the 500 leading retailers and eBay Inc. combined. In other words, these five retailers know something about selling through mobile apps.

Following are the retailers with the apps that will generate the most sales in 2014, the sales they will generate just through their mobile apps in 2014, and their 2015 Mobile 500 rank (based on total mobile sales, not just sales through apps), according to the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500:

  • Apple Inc., $11.20 billion, No. 2.
  • Inc., $5.88 billion, No. 1.
  • Google Play, $3.52 billion, No. 4.
  • Jingdong Mall, $1.45 billion, No. 3.
  • QVC, $744 million, No. 5.

The 2015 Mobile 500 examined app features and functions—including marketing capabilities—of the 262 retailers in the 500 that offer apps. These top five retailers’ apps share four common traits: push notifications, alternate images, image zoom, and 1- or 2-click checkout.

Not coincidentally, all four of these features are quite important in the mobile realm, where imagery is of great importance to consumers holding devices capable of showing high-resolution photos. Checkout is critical to these mobile shoppers who expect apps to be fast and easy.  And push notifications can drive loyal customers back to apps many times during the course of a month.

“We pay close attention to how customers are engaging with us across devices, platforms and contexts and then tailor our experiences to best serve her needs,” says Todd Sprinkle, vice president of content and platform innovation at QVC, the TV shopping and online retailer that is part of Liberty Interactive Corp. “For example, we see the iPhone often being used as an ordering device or as a quick check to see what’s new. With this understanding, we designed our iPhone app with a focus on easy access and a great checkout experience.” QVC is No. 5 in the Mobile 500.


Imagery is essential to making any online purchase, and particularly so in mobile, Sprinkle adds. “With the reduced screen size, it is important that the customer can see the product with enough clarity and detail to make an informed purchase decision,” he says. “And with push notifications, we are careful in making sure that the information is relevant and timely. Our business is built on relationships, trust and a shared love of shopping, so we look for ways to make shopping more accessible, informative and entertaining for the customer.”

Top app developers agree that features including push notifications, alternate images, image zoom and 1- or 2-click checkout are key in mobile commerce.

“Smartphones are more cluttered than ever with the number of apps being installed on any given device, so consumers have much more to wade through before getting to their ultimate destination,” says Imtiaz Jaffer, head of marketing at Pivotal Labs, which designs, develops and manages software and apps and has built mobile apps for retailers including Best Buy Co., Fanatics Inc.,, Kay Jewelers, Shopzilla and Weight Watchers International Inc.

“Push notifications are 1-click access to anything important a retailer wants a customer to act on, which is why both Apple and Google have invested so much into improving the push experience. Retailers have the opportunity to leverage notifications to enable the ultimate form of customization: Notifications that are timely and relevant to the consumer.”

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 and managing editor, mobile commerce, at Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce.