Waitrose and Sainsbury's have both released iPhone apps recently. Though neither are mobile commerce apps, they do have some useful features which can help to drive offline sales.
I've been comparing the two apps to see what they offer for customers, and how apps can be used to drive customers in store.
Both apps feature a special offers section, showcasing the latest deals in stores. On the Sainsbury's app, as well as listing money off washing up liquid, it provides offers for Nectar card users:
Once you have registered your Nectar card on the app, which is a relatively simple process, you can view your Nectar balance, and access latest bonus point offers. By selecting an offer via the app, you can then redeem it by using your clubcard in store.
The special offers section on the Waitrose app doesn't link up with any kind of clubcard, and simply displays the latest deals, though users can add them to their shopping list:
Store locators are on both apps, and are easy enough to use. Both make use of the iPhone's GPS to list the nearest stores, and both offer the option of searching by postcode or town as an alternative.
By plotting the results on Google Maps as a default, the Sainsbury's tool makes users work a little harder, as they then have to scroll around and click on the red pin before they can view store details.
It would be more usable to list the nearest stores first, then provide the options to view the location on the map, as the Waitrose app does:
This feature is exclusive to the Waitrose app, and is something that potentially makes it a much more valuable app for users.
It ties in with the TV ads featuring Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal, and features the latest recipes from the two celebrity chefs, as well as previous editions, and suggestions for weekend eating.
This is a very useful resource for the amateur cook; as well as an ingredients list, it provides step by step instructions, nutritional information, and even suggests a wine to accompany the finished dish.
It drives customers in store by offering to create a shopping list direct from the recipe page. Users of the app can then tick off the ingredients they already have, or as they are shopping, while multiple recipes can be added to the list:
This is an excellent way to drive customers in store, though the link to create the shopping list could be more obvious. Also, an option for people to add the list to their online Waitrose account would be a useful alternative.
In addition to the recipes, there are some other useful resources for chefs, including how-to videos and guides on cooking times.
The winner of this app comparison has to be Waitrose, simply because it offers a more compelling app that is likely to attract repeat usage from customers and also drive offline sales. It also works well as part of a joined up marketing effort from the supermarket.
Both apps are user friendly, and have some features that could drive customers into stores, but Waitrose's app is a more useful to shoppers.
Just by adding the shopping list function to its app, Sainsbury's could make it a more useful resource, or it could have followed Tesco's lead by making the app scannable so users could use it as a Nectar card.
Of course, what is missing is the ability to view and buy groceries through the app. In the case of Waitrose, it already offers mobile commerce to customers via Ocado, an iPhone app which has been very successful so far, so this app offers something different, and ties in nicely with its other marketing efforts.
With its major rival Tesco already having introduced mobile grocery shopping via Nokia's Ovi app store, and with an iPhone shopping app imminent, Sainsbury's may need to think about offering more for mobile users.