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Best mobile retail apps of 2011

November 22, 2011

A common trend in 2011, was the creation of retail mobile applications meant to serve as a utility and to cultivate loyal customers.

Here are some examples of noteworthy apps created in 2011, in no particular order.

Walmart has two new mobile applications designed to help shoppers make purchasing decisions and lay the groundwork for a more personal relationship with the retailer.

A brand-new Walmart iPad was launched and the retailer’s revamped iPhone app will be rolling out very soon. They are the first mobile products to be rolled out from the recently formed @WalmartLabs group, which is focused on creating mobile and social solutions that support a multichannel retail strategy.

“We want to make it very simple to engage with the Walmart brand and mobile creates a great bridge to move across various channels based on what is most convenient to customers at that time,” said Paul Cousineau, vice president of mobile products at, Brisbane, CA.

“We think that every one of our shoppers can use mobile to improve their shopping experience,” he said.

“We know that our customers are very avid consumers of our mobile capabilities. We’ve had strong adoption inside our customer base across all the platforms.”

The Snap Appy iPhone app

Specialty retailer Old Navy is upping its mobile efforts with an iPhone application designed to increase holiday sales and let consumers know about new products.

The Snap Appy app lets consumers scan products in-store to unlock season-themed surprises and rewards while shopping. Additionally, the app connects to the retailer’s mobile-optimized Web site to let users shop from home.

“As our marketing evolves, we’re focused on innovating and looking for culturally relevant ways to better engage our target customer, and best serve who she is today,” said Deborah Yeh, vice president of marketing at Old Navy, San Francisco.

“Old Navy’s new mobile app, Snap Appy, addresses our customers’ desire to have a shopping tool for their mobile-based lifestyles,” she said.

The Scan It! Mobile app from Stop & Shop

Stop & Shop is expanding its pilot of an app that enables shoppers to use their mobile phones to scan, tally and bag their groceries to an additional 42 stores.

The Scan It! Mobile app was first introduced in August by the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. at three stores in Massachusetts for the iPhone. In addition to the geographic expansion, the app is also now available for many Android devices.

“Stop & Shop is pleased with the initial launch and the ease of use and convenience provided by the grocery industry’s first mobile shopping app,” said Judi Palmer, director of marketing and external communications at Stop & Shop New England. “The expansion to the additional 42 locations will enable the company to further quantify the value to shoppers as one of Stop & Shop’s primary goals is to help our customers save time and save money.

“The new app is being promoted to our customers via the circular, email, direct mail, in-store signs — print and digital — and greeters who will be at each store during the first two weeks of availability to assist our customers with downloading and trying Scan It! Mobile,” she said. “The interest has been extremely positive to date.”

The REI Visa iPhone app

Financial institution U.S. Bank and retailer REI have teamed up to make credit card approval easier and faster for consumers shopping in-store via an iPhone application.

The goal of the partnership is to increase the number of credit card approvals for REI’s Visa card as well as speed up the application process in stores. By promoting a download of the REI Visa app at the point of purchase, shoppers can instantly be approved for the REI Visa card and begin using their reward points.

“With the app, we want to move the process of loyalty cards to mobile and make it faster for consumers,” said Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer of the bank payment service division at U.S. Bank, Minneapolis.

“The app also moves the customer application process out of the service lane to more of an in-store experience that connects with the brand,” he said.

TheFind Android app

Online retail aggregator and search engine is bridging mobile, Web and in-store shopping with an Android application.

According to TheFind, the company has been dabbling in mobile for two years and has tested both smartphone and tablet apps. In particular, its mobile efforts have geared towards Android devices because of the larger screen and user habits.

“There are two types of mobile shoppers,” said Ramneek Bhasin, vice president and general manager of mobile and tablets at TheFind, San Francisco. “Consumers are either looking for a specific item, or they want to browse catalogs and products on mobile devices.

“What we discovered is that Android devices let consumers shop by browsing because the larger screens engage more with consumers,” he said.

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is driving foot traffic to its locations via a new application that helps consumers build projects at home and shop for products via their mobile device.

Consumers can shop Lowe’s inventory via the iPhone app. The app is currently available for free in Apple’s App Store.

“Empowering consumers with the ability to access information via their preferred means is a core tenant of our business at Lowe’s,” said Colleen Maiura, spokeswoman for Lowe’s, Mooresville, NC.

“We constantly evaluate how customers prefer to interact with Lowe’s brand and mobile is clearly a medium that’s important,” she said.

Domino’s is showing that it is a force to reckon with in the mobile ordering arena via a new iPad app that lets pizza lovers customize and order their favorite pies.

The app, which was developed by Somo, lets British consumers order while on the go. Additionally, the app was also recently launched in the United States.

“Online orders account for an increasingly large proportion of sales and so mobile ordering methods such as the apps were the obvious next step,” said Nick Dutch, multimedia manager for Domino’s Pizza, Bedford, England.

“We originally launched our iPhone app last year and within just eight months, it had taken £10 million worth of pizza sales,” he said. “Hot on the heels of the iPhone, we launched our Android app in May.”

W Hotels is driving new and existing guests to its locations by letting them book rooms, order room service and get insider access via an iPhone application.

The company has integrated tips, fashion finds and incorporated a music platform with exclusive content. The app is available for free download in Apple’s App Store.

“The W global iPhone app extends the W lifestyle by providing value with exclusive music content, W Insider tips, fashion finds, trends and access to W Hotel’s The Store,” said a W Hotels spokesperson, New York.

“The app serves as a clear business driver for W Hotels as guests are now booking guestrooms and looking for content through mobile apps,” the spokesperson said.

Groupon has rolled out an iPad application to expand its local deals offerings to a wider range of consumers.

Consumers using the iPad can buy deals near their current location and redeem them electronically. The app is available for free download in Apple’s App Store.

“Our primary goals for the Groupon iPad app were user engagement and delight,” said Julie Mossler, spokeswoman for Groupon, Chicago.

“We wanted to leverage the strengths of the iPad experience, the visual and tactile elements, and marry them seamlessly with Groupon’s strength – compelling local deals,” she said.

Burger chain Five Guys Burgers & Fries has released a mobile ordering application for Google’s Android platform to increase customer touch points and drive more sales.

The restaurant partnered with OLO Online Ordering to create the app, which was built by Solertium, and uses OLO’s application programming interface (API) to let customers order a quick meal from virtually anywhere and pay for it online. Five Guys also launched text-message ordering and a mobile Web site with OLO alongside the release of the application.

“This was built on top of the Five Guys online ordering platform, which allows customers to place orders and pay online and have orders transmitted directly to the Radiant or MICROS point-of-sale system at the store,” said Noah Herbert Glass, founder/CEO of OLO Online Ordering, New York.

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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