I’ve been thinking a lot about mobile apps in retail recently. I’ve been thinking about which retailers need an app and whether in fact we’re seeing a bit of a backlash against the app, fuelled by mobile optimised and responsive websites.

Retail apps still have their place in a mobile optimised world, but they’re increasingly characterised as devices for customer retention. Loyalty programmes and coupons keep regular customers feeling loved.

Of course, there are still some successful shopping apps, too, often for retailers big or pervasive enough to demand smartphone real estate (supermarkets, Amazon and the like).

So, here you go, here are 10 apps that I think have made a difference for customers in retail.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments.

CVS Caremark and Walgreens

A recent Forbes article on drug stores highlighted CVS Caremark and Walgreen as the highest regarded retail mobile apps, going by US app store reviews.

Both apps allow users to get refills and make orders to collect, as well as look at deals in store. These quick added functionalities instantly show their value and are popular with customers.

The refill feature in particular is a brilliant example of how regular customers, or customers that just might prove regular, can have their experience in store speeded up and feel more confident about shopping. The reminders, scanner and shopping lists are helpful features in a market where products can be difficult to keep track of.



Mothercare is in the perfect market to combine functionalities in an app, including educational content designed for mother and baby as well as the more prosaic ability to shop.

At this time of their lives, mothers and fathers have lots to remember, so apps are useful here again for listing and curation purposes.


The 7-Eleven app does a good line in sending coupons to your app, to encourage visiting a store and redeeming them. There’s also information on current deals in store as well as a store locator.

The main advantage of this app is the coupons, but with a profusion of 7-Elevens (over 50,000) this is a compelling enough feature for many people to get on board.


This app is consistently reviewed well in the app store and is marked by its range of functionality and ease of use.

The app includes a barcode scanner and store finder. The shopping facility also allows for click and collect, which often suits customers on the move better than a delivery slot.


Nordstrom pops up in many lists of app favourites because like ASDA’s app it does the basics efficiently.

The product range can be browsed by department or brand. As you can see from the screenshot, the main functions are clearly listed at the bottom of the home page. There’s an additional ‘style’ section featuring editorial and social content


Another example from a big supermarket, the biggest in fact. Again the functionality and UX is as the consumer would expect and the app serves offers to its homepage. As one app store reviewer puts it, "Easier then (sic) using my computer!!!"


The oft quoted example. The king of taking brand identity into an app and improving customer experience. The Starbucks stores push the app and don’t think of it as a gimmick adopting by the occasional customer. Starbucks regulars get their loyalty points and can pay without hassle.


The even-more oft quoted example. Amazon is an undoubted mobile success.

Customer information is uniform across web and app, with basket contents, delivery info etc all consistent.

As per the Amazon desktop site, the app is super user friendly and has been succeeding since its inception in


Ben Davis

Published 16 January, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (11)

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Rick Noel

The kinds of real-time, location based marketing that apps provides makes mobile super compelling for retail, which as anyone who has ever worked in the industry knows, it super competitive.

Retailers who are lagging behind in the mobile marketing and commerce market need to get on board or risk getting left behind.

over 4 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Ben,

I really like the thinking behind the Nieman Marcus personal shopping app.


It's driven by UX thinking, putting user needs first to drive interest and inevitably sales. The service is aligned well with the brand position and at the time of launch was unique.

It is a great solution for a high-end multi-channel retailer, helping drive store engagement via the mobile channel.

Shopkick also deserves a mention - a pioneer in the geo-location space for retail, rewarding customers for interactions with brands, not just purchases. It has a lot of big retailers signed-up, in the US especially.


over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Yep, Graham's covered Nieman Marcus on the blog before. A good app. Their site is down so I didn't include as I couldn't have a scout around their store.

Shopkick looks great. I'll have to take a look at those consolidated loyalty apps. There seems to be quite a few and from different types of companies. Would be good to know which are used most heavily and where.

over 4 years ago


Arvind Krishnan

Good list, Ben. Would have been interesting to see metrics (downloads, engagement) on these as well

over 4 years ago


Martin Hogan, MD at Repsero

Some good examples there guys. Ultimately you want to work with a company that is going to advise you on what is best for you and your customer base. Try these: http://www.amriss.com

over 4 years ago

Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio, Retail Blogger at Vend

Thanks for the list, Ben.

I'm a heavy user of the Starbucks app, and I think it provides a really smooth user experience. I love that I have the option of checking and reloading my balance through the app, the Starbucks website, or when I'm at the store. Any updates on my balance, rewards, or profile info sync in real-time, across all channels, which is a plus since I'm always switching from web to mobile.

Amazon's app is pretty cool too, and I'm an even bigger fan now that they've added the "Flow" feature. I can point my camera at packaged groceries, books, DVDs, etc and the app will find the items then save them on my list (no barcodes required).

I've thrown a lot of money at these companies thanks to their apps, so yep, I think having a mobile app strategy (executed correctly of course) is a huge boon for retailers.

We actually wrote a retail app roundup on our site too--though it's a list of apps FOR retailers instead of BY retailers. http://www.vendhq.com/retail-apps

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Nice article, with yourselves at the top ;-)

Thanks for the great comment.

over 4 years ago


ian collins, pres at fifteen degrees

Has anyone heard of SLYCE?

over 3 years ago

Neha Mallik

Neha Mallik, Content Producer at Mobstac

Great post Ben! That's an excellent assortment of apps. Each app stands out for its unique features and that is what makes these apps so widely popular among users. The key to building and growing the user base of an app is to engage customers and entice them with unique features. One also needs to invest on promoting the app and devising an app marketing strategy. I recently wrote a post on how retailers can build an audience for their retail app: http://blog.beaconstac.com/building-an-audience-for-your-retail-app-top-4-tips/

about 3 years ago


Andrew Chilcott, CEO at Seeklocal Limited

These are great retail apps, a good mix of utility and style. We have just launched a retail product search app in Australia called Seeklocal - I would love to know what you think of it.

about 3 years ago


jamal lewis, Cofounder/President at Think Jineus

I agree Rick, companies like amazon and Starbucks are really setting the tone in the digital and mobile retail space. I think retailers will have to find more young tech savvy marketing teams to gain momentum.

almost 3 years ago

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