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ais London - Creative innovation that people value

Geoff Gower

Do grocery apps complicate the customer shopping experience?

Sainsbury’s recently announced they are to launch a new ‘shop-and-go’ smartphone app that will allow its customers to complete an entire in-store shopping trip using their phone.

The free app, will be tested at Sainsbury’s Wandsworth store, before being rolled out nationwide in 2016. The app will allow shoppers to scan barcodes of the items they need from home and add them to a shopping list. The app will be linked to a live pricing feature which will update the shopping list with current store prices. When the customer enters a participating store, the wi-fi will enable a store map identifying where the items are stocked. The app can then be used to scan the barcodes as customers place goods into their basket. Payment can be made instantly by card and details entered into the app simply by taking a photo of their credit card.
 
This is all very well and good for Sainsbury’s to showcase their innovative streak, however in practice, will it be adopted and rolled out to a wider audience? Only time will tell.

This hypothesis depends on a variety of factors, such as ease of use and if it will eliminate the perceived struggle of locating everyday items in store. Poor mobile reception or unreliable store wi-fi often hinders an app's effectiveness, so this is a crucial area which needs to be resolved. In our ‘always-on’ society where smartphones and tablets are never more than a few inches away, apps have become an extension for retailers to offer customers with an immersive and interactive experience. Many high street and premium brands have produced great apps, while many others still struggle to get it right, potentially leading to loss of business and a bruised reputation.

Technology will never fully replace the experience a bricks and mortar retailer can provide, but the two must co-exist for maximum impact and ultimately to enhance the customer's experience. On the flip side, apps can potentially complicate the customer experience by not being consistent with a brands messaging, promotions or featuring old stock.

A recent study into the behavior of 1,200 app users in the UK found that one in five apps are installed and then forgotten. Travel and holiday apps being the most likely to be installed and forgotten, followed by shopping, restaurant and takeaway apps. Despite the number of apps that go unused, 47 per cent of people surveyed by Ipsos said an app was their preferred location to source information quickly, compared to 17 per cent who prefer a mobile site. Overall, apps were seen as simpler, quicker, and more personalized for their daily needs. For simplicity of navigation, 50 per cent of respondents preferred an app compared to mobile.
 
Apps remain a powerful tool for brands to connect with their customers in real-time, while keeping them informed and engaged. However, too often a brand's app can present a disjointed experience when compared to the message on their website or in-store.

From a customer perspective, used well, apps can enhance the retail experience by providing customers with depth of content and product knowledge to ease their purchasing decision. An app is a complement to and not a substitute for an optimised mobile site. The brands and retailers that continue to provide a sub-par mobile experience stand to lose the business of their more digital savvy customers. Businesses that have been succeeding in the digital space are built to serve their customers’ needs first and foremost.
 
For a mobile app to be considered successful, it requires various practical characteristics and touch points, such as; quick load time, clear design layout, easy navigation, high quality imagery and video to entice the user, accurate pricing and a streamlined ordering mechanic to name a few.

Retailers that have produced efficient and engaging apps that showcase these points include; M&S, Expedia, British Airways, Next, H&M, Zara and Apple Store. These apps all have one thing in common, they are seen to be reliable, consistent, informative and engaging.

Brands across all commercial sectors must deliver these fundamental requirements if they are to succeed and potentially enjoy the fruits of their labour. 

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