Our phones have become an integral part of our relationship with retail as the devices assist us in connecting to stores, and help us look up hours or information. Studies show that nearly 60% of shoppers look up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores. The industry has embraced apps heartily and packed their retail apps with ways to improve the customer experience as one in 10 retailers offer in-store features in their mobile apps. In the 2017 survey on how consumers use smartphones while in-store, 33% of respondents said that they accessed specific retail apps.

While multiple retail apps are used to facilitate purchases online, a growing number of retail apps have added in-store features as well. Over time, retailers have added the ability to manage your loyalty rewards, find the information for a store, or check if an item is in stock. These retailers are taking it to a whole new level by making the shopping experience more seamless than ever with apps that improve the customer experience.

Retail Apps: ULTA and Sephora

Ulta and Sephora are engaged in the battle of the beauty market. Both are growing significantly and both have launched impressive apps with features that connect the products to the consumer in new ways. Customers can use both apps to scan product barcodes to read reviews and information. The apps also feature a virtual makeup station where customers can “try on” various beauty products including lipstick, blush, and eye makeup. Although accessible both in-store and on the go, this virtual reality feature encourages customers to explore the makeup while they’re browsing in-store. Both apps also let you access the store loyalty program to use points for in-store purchases and view offers.

retail apps

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Retail Apps: ACE Hardware

While some apps on this list that improve the customer experience are handled by the customer themselves, ACE Hardware deploys CB4’s app behind the scenes to correct operational issues in-store. By uploading a few weeks of simple POS data, CB4’s machine learning algorithms discovered in-store operational issues affecting items with high local demand and issued recommendations back to ACE Hardware to check on these items and correct the issues. In a single year, CB4 and ACE Hardware’s partnership resulted in a 2.1% sales growth across their entire chain.

To learn more about our partnership, download the case study today.

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Retail Apps: Home Depot

Home Depot’s app uses a popular retail technology: geofencing. Geofencing uses GPS or RFID technology, then generates a virtual geographic boundary. Apps equipped with geofencing will recognize when the mobile device leaves or enters the area mapped by the app. Home Depot’s app kicks into “store mode” and begins displaying a map on the screen, helping customers navigate through the store to find their chosen items. The app displays product information right down to the aisle and bay. The app also includes barcode scanning for product details and an image search that uses a photo to find similar products.

retail apps

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Retail Apps: Target

Target has consistently refined their app offerings and after having two separate apps, the retailer merged their digital coupon app, Cartwheel, and the main Target app. Now customers can find everything Target in one spot on their mobile devices. The app and stores use Bluetooth beacons and GPS to show customers a map of the store layout and aisles when used in-store. Perhaps the most valuable feature for in-store shoppers, however, is Cartwheel. Cartwheel lets customers browse for digital coupons for special offers, then when the customer “clips” the coupon, the cashier just needs to scan a barcode to activate it. If shoppers want to see if an item has a coupon, they just need to scan the barcode and the app will display a corresponding offer — or if unavailable, a similar item with savings will appear. Cartwheel is immensely popular, with Target reporting customers redeemed over 1 million in savings so far.

retail apps

Image courtesy of Target

Retail Apps: Walmart

Not to be outdone by Target, Walmart has their own shopping app.  In February 2018, Walmart reworked their app to feature “Store Assistant,” where customers can see the location of items, check prices, and more. The “Store Assistant” mode comes on when customers are in the store and can guide them to an item. Walmart says they’re rolling out Store Maps to every store as fast as possible — the retailer has over 4,700 stores total, and is working on a map for every single location. Barcode scanning is also available to show customers a price of an item while they’re in-store. When customers make a list on the Walmart app, the Store Assistant shows the list, the aisle of each item and the cost, letting customers cross off each item as they shop.

retail apps

Image courtesy of Walmart

Retail Apps: American Eagle + Aerie

American Eagle + Aerie’s target demographic are tweens, young adults and adults in their early twenties. The retailer’s app features the ability to stream the in-store playlist while customers shop in-store, letting them connect to the brand in a new way. Customers can also look up to see if items are in stock at a certain store, and also reserve items to try-on; the app calls this feature “Reserve, Try, and Buy” and it eliminates a customer searching for the item they saw online to try on in a fitting room.

The industry will continue to look towards retail apps to connect the digital and in-store shopping experience, especially as smartphone use grows. App users are looking to retailer apps for discounts, in-store navigation, product lookup, loyalty programs and other valuable features.

A total of 2.5 billion smartphone users are expected in the year 2019 which poses an exciting opportunity for retailers. It seems like the demand for new and exciting technology in mobile apps has never been greater especially as retailers try to stand out among the crowd, especially in the age of the “so-called retail apocalypse.”

For more information on CB4’s app for in-store operations and IT teams, visit our Content Library, where you’ll find product overviews, customer case studies and more.