An interesting insight struck me when I was recently asked to comment on ‘the most useful apps for the connected shopper’: very few of the best shopping apps come from a grocery retailer or CPG manufacturer.
My list of great apps (that I use!) included Key Ring, Card Star, Fast Mall, Coupon Sherpa, Shopkick (etc…) with with nary a grocery retailer or CPG brand in sight.
To be fair to other retail channels, there’s quite a few useful apps in the general merch/ specialty retail space. But even on this list there’s a severe lack of grocery retailers (okay, Target made the list but their app isn’t really for grocery shopping).
There is NO shortage of retailer or CPG apps out there, and some are quite useful (like Meijer meal box, or Stella Artois’s bar guide) but the real ‘killer apps’ for grocery shopping tend to come from third party developers. My best inference is that this phenomenon is another example of what I call a ’solution-looking-for-a-problem’.
Third party developers’ process probably starts with a comment like: “you know what would be helpful when I’m shopping? An app that <insert shopper need here>”. And then they apply their technology and design skills to building an app to meet that need.
However, I fear that too often the starting comment in grocery retailers or CPG companies is something more like: “We need an app! Everyone has one! We HAVE to have one, ASAP!” We’ve all heard it said – or perhaps been the one that said it! Then likely follows an inward-looking process focused on “what we want our app to do or say” and soon the inclusion of ‘brand building imagery’ and ‘on-brand messaging’ overtake the idea that this thing should do anything for shoppers.
I’d love to hear that I’m wrong, but that’s the distinct impression I’m left with after using many brand or retailer shopping apps. They were made more for the aggrandizement of of the makers ego, than for the benefit of shoppers.
So, where Key Ring delivers against a valuable shopper need (two in fact!: gives me my all my loyalty barcodes on my phone plus aggregates all the coupons for those stores in real time) many grocery retailer apps still focus on minimally useful ‘benefits’ like telling me store locations and hours or directing me to their online stores. I have an app for that… my web browser.
The third party apps actually can be a useful flag for shopper need gaps to retail marketers, though – both for their own apps, and overall experience. For example, there is a popular app now out to help New Yorkers calculate how much to add to their subway cards to make sure it rounds to a certain number of trips (without 35 cents left unspent) and shows them how to do that on the ticket machine. For the subway authority , the fact that their passengers are using this app should flag a need for their buying experience (ticket machines) to be made easier in the first place (ie. offer cards by number of trips, instead of just by dollar value).
Thankfully for shoppers, where big business is falling short, independent appsters are filling the gap(p).
- the orange sheep