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What works: Walmart or Best Buy’s mobile approach to big box retailBy
Walmart and Best Buy have relied on mobile as not only a way to engage with consumers but also drive in-store foot traffic and online sales. So how do the two brands break down when it comes to their iPhone applications and optimized sites?
“Our goal is to make mobile an indispensable tool for the Walmart customer, especially when shopping in-store,” said Gibu Thomas, senior vice president of digital and mobile at Walmart Global eCommerce, Brisbane, CA.
“200 million people walk into our stores every week, and a significant portion of them have smartphones,” he said.
One of the main draws of Walmart’s app is helping in-store shoppers.
For instance, approximately one month ago, Walmart launched a store mode feature in its app that lets users customize their shopping experience based on their location with a separate in-store user interface. Since launching the feature, Mr. Thomas claims that 15 percent of all app page views are made while a user is in a store, showing how consumers are actively using their mobile devices to help them shop.
Via the feature, consumers can find coupons, scan in-store items and track products by specific aisles.
Additionally, consumers can create shopping lists with Walmart’s app that use real-time to pull prices from a user’s set store. The list then serves as a budgeting tool with a calculator feature where shoppers can add and delete items from their shopping lists.
Consumers can also add items to their shopping lists via voice recognition, a built-in bar code scanner, from their basket history or by favorited products.
Other key features of the app include user reviews on product pages and the ability to share content via email. Walmart’s pharmacy and photo departments let users refill prescriptions or order photos.
To speed up the check-out process, users can sign-in with their Walmart account or create a new one.
Consumers can then select for an item to be shipped to them or picked up in-store.
Although Walmart’s mobile site is not as rich of an experience as the app, the company has taken a similar approach by playing up location.
Similar to the app, users can find nearby stores and view local deals.
Product pages let users quickly see if items are in-store and can either be added to a shopping cart or saved for later.
Consumers can also track orders and view the company’s discounted rollback products by category.
Typically, retailers use their mobile Web sites to promote their apps, which are tied to more loyal users.
Walmart’s mobile site features a call-to-action at the bottom of the page that encourages consumers to download the app, but it is not very prominent and might be more effective if it was placed higher up on the page.
Outside of mobile, Walmart also has a strong social media presence with more than 17 million Facebook “likes” and 156,000 followers on Twitter. Given how social media goes hand-in-hand with mobile, it would be nice to see more social media integration and sharing built into both Walmart’s mobile site and apps.
“[We think of] how mobile can make your in-store experience fundamentally better from planning the visit to checking the price of an item in-store,” Mr. Thomas said.
In the consumer electronic space, Best Buy is one of the few remaining bricks-and-mortar stores. Therefore the retailer has banked on online and mobile to specifically help customer service and bolster sales.
“Mobile is a must have as part of any brand’s strategy these days. But for a retailer, mobile is that much more important when you consider consumer behavior and the rise in shopping or researching products via mobile,” said Sloane Kelley, interactive strategy director at BFG, Bluffton, SC.
“A sale is a sale. Best Buy is showing an understanding for its consumer by offering a mobile experience — whether it’s for research or purchase,” she said.
Ms. Kelley is not affiliated with Best Buy. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.
Best Buy did not respond in time for press deadline.
When first opened, the company’s iPhone app asks if it is OK to use a consumer’s location and is laid out with a banner ad featuring current promotions at the top of the page.
Similar to other brands, Best Buy is aiming for its app to be a center for its loyalty program — Reward Zone — that lets users manage their account.
Additionally, Best Buy has set up a notification system that lets users set notifications for when particular products in categories are on sale. Not only is this a great way for Best Buy to customize the app with relevant content, it gives consumers an incentive for using the app on a regular basis.
Best Buy’s goal to use mobile as a way to empower the shopper is clear through the app. Instead of pushing products down user’s throats, the app is more of a hub for all of the brand’s content.
For example, the app uses image recognition and a built in mobile bar code scanner that helps shoppers quickly find specific products or check gift card balances.
Product pages include options to let consumers add items to their shopping carts or wish lists. Products can then be shared via email, Twitter, Facebook and SMS.
Price is a big part of Best Buy’s mobile app strategy. For instance, each product page features a price marked as a regular price. In order to reveal Best Buy’s price, users have to tap on the page, which reveals a lower price from Best Buy.
Consumers can also browse discounted products at nearby stores and shop from a weekly ad.
Based on the types of big-ticket products that Best Buy sells, consumers are most likely comparison shopping before buying.
To help consumers find the best deals, the app lets users compare three products at once. Although consumers are also most likely looking at Best Buy’s competitors via their mobile devices, the company is giving users tools that help keep the retailer in control in its own app.
The Best Buy app also includes an App Store with recommended apps in categories that users might be interested in based on their interest in Best Buy. Examples of apps include Netflix, foursquare and Sqaure.
Compared to Best Buy’s iPhone app, the company’s mobile site is much simpler and straight-forward.
Again, the site is merchandised with current promotions at the top of the page.
The mobile site uses location to help find the nearest store for consumers.
Instead of driving loyalty, the mobile Web site is more aimed at driving online sales and foot traffic.
Product pages also include inventory information. Using a device’s location, shoppers can find items in specific stores, check-out and pick up the product in-store.
However, price is still an important part of Best Buy’s mobile site with a similar price comparison tool that gives users side-by-side comparisons of related products.
The site saves a consumers’ browsing history on the home page to let users quickly access information. Additionally, the mobile site shows recommended products, which can be quickly vote on as being interested or not.
“An app can offer better usability versus a mobile site,” Ms. Kelley said.
“With a smaller screen and possibly slower connection speeds on mobile versus a computer, it can be tough to navigate and type within even some of the best mobile-optimized sites. That’s where an app can help,” she said.
“An app offers the ability to create an experience that is easier to navigate, especially when it comes to shopping versus a mobile site. An app can also mean the ability to integrate functionality native to the phone’s operating system.”
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York
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