Apps, Reviews & Mobile Strategy

by Net Future Institute on March 5, 2013

The latest look at the success of retailers’ apps in the eyes of their customers raises some interesting issues.

The study (see story below) wasn’t necessarily telling the major retailers things they didn’t already know about customer reactions to their apps, since the retailers already see and monitor reviews at the Android and Apple app stores.

However, it did provide some context for the overall app-at-retail marketplace and some insight into the potential future.

Not that many years ago, companies were debating and deciding whether they should have their own app. Now there are numerous reviews, rankings, studies and comparisons of whose apps are best at what they do.

The Xtreme Labs study showed that drugstores had the highest rated apps and the lowest rated were at two retailers, including Giant Eagle, one of the largest food retailers and distributors in the U.S.

The grocery chain has more than 200 supermarkets throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. More interestingly in this context is that it has a comprehensive and holistic mobile strategy, of which the app is one component. (I’m familiar with the company since they’re a case study in my next book on the revolution at retail because of mobile and tablets.)

Like many other retailers, Giant Eagle views the shopping process as a continuous cycle rather than a one-time, on-location event.

They use social and mobile to interact with customers during the pre-buy phase, link into their rewards program and provide digital shopping lists with in-store digital coupons, among other things. They conducted a trial with Shopkick, include scannable codes in the Giant advantage card within the app and are evaluating mobile, self-checkout.

“Giant Eagle’s mobile offering provides value and convenience to our customers by way of digital coupons, easy access to shopping lists, and weekly sale and savings information,”  said Donna Pahel, Director, Digital CRM at Giant Eagle.

“Like any retailer pursuing application development, we experience bugs along the way and aggressively address and solve them,” she said. “We continue to invest in and pursue delivery of digital products that provide value as part of our overall CRM strategy.”

The reality is that even as retail apps evolve, most shoppers are not yet using them for in-store shopping. “It is the customers that are technologically more active,” Jeremy Black, Xtreme Labs retailer director told me today. “That is where the market is going.

The increase in the number of customers using and presumably reviewing retailers’ apps can provide at least one indicator of the success of one aspect of the retail experience.

Large retailers have a myriad of issues to manage with mobile, one of which is their app.

An app is not a mobile strategy, it is just an app.

Chuck Martin is editor of mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk. He is author of “The Third Screen,” “The Smartphone Handbook,” and the soon-to-be-published “Mobile Influence.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute and a frequent mobile keynote speaker around the globe.



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