Leading in to the holiday season, retailers are beefing up their mobile capabilities to prepare for what RNG expects to be a watershed year for mobile and online shopping. Now that smartphone adoption is approaching 50% and 11% of adults own tablets, some of the world’s biggest companies are upgrading their capabilities. Walmart, Amazon, Google, and Apple have all launched new apps over the last 6 weeks. We are going to take a quick look at each of these new or improved apps.
Walmart updated its iPhone app and introduced an all-new iPad app last week, both of which were designed by @WalmartLabs, which sprang from the Kosmix acquisition. New features include Smart Shopping Lists, Coupon Clipping, and List Sharing. Look for more from us soon on Walmart’s and other new iPad apps.
With Smart Shopping Lists, users can add items with the barcode and QR scanners, voice recognition using Nuance’s software, favorites and suggestions. Shoppers can also browse coupons which are provided through a partnership with Coupons.com. Lists can then be shared via email.
The app will also show the aisle location of items within a limited amount of Walmart stores. This feature will expand to more stores as it comes out of beta testing.
Walmart is making good strides in creating the type of all-in-one app that we feel will create the most engagement with consumers. The addition of key features like a shopping list with integrated deals and item aisle location are steps in the right direction. However, there were some usability issues – no products we scanned into my list, including Halls cough drops, Wrigley gum, and a Dasani water bottle, had any product or pricing info. There are also some more features we would like to see, such as a mobile payment option and location-based deals.
Amazon introduced its Flow iPhone app on November 2. In our view, this is one of the most useful implementations of augmented reality currently available. Once the app is launched, by just pointing the phone’s camera at a media object (book covers, video games, DVDs, CDs) or the barcodes of any product, detailed information about the product is overlaid almost immediately. These details include price, Amazon ratings and reviews, and product description and details.
Of course, shoppers can also order the item right from Amazon.
This functionality isn’t ground-breaking itself, but the ease and speed of use make this app interesting, and we would be surprised if its functionality is not eventually incorporated into Amazon’s branded app. But it may not be ready for prime time. Results were mixed for non-media products, like when the app showed details for a book when a water bottle’s barcode was scanned.
In August, Google released Catalogs for the iPad. The app aggregates digital versions of catalogs from various retailers. For many products, a very limited “detail” page is available within the app which has options for buying on the retailer’s site or finding a nearby store carrying it. By bookmarking pages or items, users can create collages within the app – customizable collections of their favorite pictures and products that can be shared. There is also a search feature which locates relevant pages of the circulars.
Catalogs incorporates some interesting ideas: first aggregating digital, interactive catalogs from many retailers, and then making them searchable and social. The app does have its shortcomings, though. It is too slow, the picture did not fit on our iPad 2 screen, and the social features failed to integrate Facebook or even Google’s own Google+. It is still an interesting app to watch as it brings some web 2.0 sensibility to the print catalog. One can see the collage as being a sort of Christmas wishlist of the future.
When Apple announced Cards during its iPhone 4S press conference, some thought it an unlikely app to feature. Put simply, it lets people send physical greeting cards to people after personalizing them with the iPhone.
At launch, users are greeted with a list of cards presented in Apple’s familiar Cover Flow style. There are 6 categories to choose from: Thank You, Holiday, Baby, Birthday, Love, and Travel.
Most aspects of the cards can be modified – all text can be changed or deleted and default photos can quickly be replaced with a snap of the phone’s camera or by selecting a photo from the user’s collection.
Lastly, card recipients can be chosen from the phone’s address book or entered manually. For cards sent within the US, the total price is $2.99 and includes all postage. When cards are delivered, the sender receives a notification on their iPhone or iPod touch.
The digitization of sending physical greeting cards is a great move on Apple’s part, and shows they are thinking hard about which retail categories fit well in a digital context.
Apple also released version 2.0 of its Apple Store app on November 8. With the new app (and on the Apple.com store), same day in-store pickup of online orders is now available.
The app also features a new kind of mobile payment called EasyPay. By scanning a barcode in-store, shoppers can access products specs and reviews and checkout on the spot using the credit card associated with their iTunes account. A digital receipt is provided, and the shopper can just walk out of the store with the items in tow. The service is limited, however, to select accessories, as many Apple products require additional associate assistance.
Apple isn’t just a technology innovator—it’s a retail innovator. EasyPay is a modest step into mobile payments, but an important one: Apple is signaling that they may be planning to brand and scale their own approach, which is a credible idea given how many shoppers have payment data stored via iTunes.
RNG clients can access our report on mobile shopping tools here.