7 Retail App Features that Improve the In-Store Experience


It’s one of the benefits of the mobile ecosystem that users can seamlessly move through the entire purchase process - from awareness to consideration, to conversion - all without having to leave their couch. This is especially prevalent after the sharp downturn in in-person retail shopping due to the 2020 pandemic. 

But how well are brands integrating their digital touchpoints with the offline, in-store experience? 2021 proved to be the year of the return to in-store shopping, so what are retailers offering their returning customers?

Consider this: 

Nearly 57% of shoppers look up product or pricing information while using their mobile phones in stores. In fact, digital interactions now influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in brick and mortar locations, according to Deloitte

Despite how important the mobile channel is to the in-store purchase experience, however, only 1 in 10 retail apps include functionality specifically designed for the in-store experience. 

Using the mobile format to make the offline experience more engaging can be an enormous competitive advantage for companies with native applications. 

So what functionality lies beyond online shopping? 

Product & Pricing Information

One of the challenges of eCommerce is that a user can’t physically examine a product before making a purchase. So, savvy retailers provide as much contextual information in their online listings as possible, including numerous product photos, descriptions, and reviews. 

On the flip side, when a customer is shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, they don’t have immediate access to the information they’re accustomed to leveraging as part of the digital purchase journey.

Giving your in-store customers the same access to information that online users enjoy can reassure shoppers that they’re making the right purchase decisions.

Forrester recently found that while just 6% of US online adults consulted a store associate for information about recent purchases of consumer products, 30% have used their mobile phones to look up product information while shopping in a physical store. 

Up to 20% of purchase failures can be attributed to a lack of information about a product, so these details are important. 

Making product information accessible in your app (versus forcing users to navigate through your mobile website) is a great way to capture the benefits of both the digital and mobile shopping experience.

Streamlined try-on tools

When purchasing clothing, shoes, cosmetics, or accessories, have you ever thought to yourself, “I would try this on, but I don’t have time,” or, “I would try this on, but the line is too long”? 

Enter: mobile try-on.

In 2019, Macy’s piloted an augmented reality (AR) feature in its mobile application enabling users to try on thousands of different cosmetic products, all without the mess of sampling multiple “sample” products at once.

While this feature can help drive digital sales, it can also eliminate the inconvenience associated with the in-store try-on process.

Another convenient “try-on” feature is the option to reserve items ahead of time to try them out in-store. 

Not only does this reserve inventory for in-demand products, but it also saves users some of the time and effort associated with shopping. 

Loyalty programming

In our series on the future of mobile, we found that 78% of consumers prefer instant, digital access to rewards. 

Giving in-store customers the same immediate access to their coupons that they enjoy digitally is both (a) convenient for users and (b) a great way for brands to track and incentivize purchase behavior.

Service-oriented companies (think luxury brands, automobile dealers, beauty professionals, or fitness organizations) have a lot to gain from incorporating mobile loyalty programs into their in-store customer engagement strategy.

“Clienteling” mobile apps empower store associates with information such as purchase history so that they can have more contextual conversations with customers. 

These employee-facing applications interface with other customer-facing systems, like beacon-triggered push notifications, to personalize the in-store experience for every individual.

Armed with this information about their loyal customers, associates’ recommendations will be more relevant and their service interactions will be more successful.

In-store navigation

The digital realm allows users to find what they’re looking for in seconds using keyword searches. Would more of those customers return to brick and mortar locations if they could navigate the physical space with this type of ease? 

As we learned earlier, today’s customer prefers self-service to interface directly with a store associate. In response, some retailers (like Home Depot and Walgreens) are leveraging inventory data, digital wayfinding technology, and even augmented reality to guide customers through their shopping journey. 

Mobile navigation also offers brands opportunities to deliver curated in-store experiences. 

Imagine the possibilities:

Home improvement stores can direct visitors to the location of everything they’d need to start a vegetable garden. Grocery stores can guide customers through the aisles to collect every ingredient for a recipe or highlight items that work for gluten-free families. Marine service centers can help new boaters collect everything they need for a safe and enjoyable maiden voyage. 

In this way, customers can use in-store navigation as a personal shopping assistant, all without waiting for service or consulting a sales associate.

Related reading: Why Your Customer Loyalty Program is Failing and What To Do About It

Mobile Checkout

The case for integrating mobile payment systems into your mobile experience is strong. According to research from Worldpay, mobile payments are forecast to surpass both cash and credit cards to become the second-most popular POS payment method (after debit cards) by 2022. 

Retailers like Sam’s Club are infusing even more convenience into the checkout experience by incorporating scan-and-go technology into their mobile applications. This cutting-edge feature allows customers to scan items as they place them in their cart and pay for them via the application itself. 

There’s no carrying heavy items across the store, and no waiting behind multiple customers in line. 

Related reading: Why It's Time to Invest In Mobile Payment Features

Personalized real-time offers

The barriers to online shopping are so low that simply visiting a website doesn’t necessarily indicate a high propensity to make a purchase.

A customer who is physically inside a brick and mortar store location, however, is demonstrating a seriously high level of intent. 

Up to ⅔ of customers report researching a product online - at least occasionally - before shopping for it in a store. Furthermore, 86% of shoppers find it beneficial to receive coupons on their mobile devices while they’re shopping in their favorite stores.

For a truly personalized experience, give these in-store visitors an incentive to purchase the item(s) in which they’ve already demonstrated interest. 

Branded content delivery

Think about how consumers shop, dine or wait in retail locations today. While some may be chatting with friends or family, a higher percentage are on their phones.

Branded content is a great way to foster brand engagement with visitors in a non-transactional way. 

If customers are already using your app to look up product information or to access discounts, what other experiences can you offer them while they’re physically in your location?

Is your customer early for their appointment? Trigger a push notification to encourage that user to watch interesting video content on the app while they wait. 

Do you anticipate long wait times over the holiday shopping season? Give your users access to a fun mobile game to help them pass the time.

Gyms, restaurants, tourist attractions, and retailers can offer their visitors the ability to stream a store-specific playlist or podcast feed, just like Starbucks does in each of its shops in the US. 

Your mobile app users are your most loyal customers. Why not reinforce their engagement with your brand by adding value to their shopping experience through content? 

Connecting the Digital & Physical Worlds

While the retail superstars of the last decade stayed competitive with mobile commerce and digital discount offers, there’s a good chance that the next decade’s winners will be determined based on how fully they embrace mobile apps as part of the in-store experience.

If you’re interested in expanding the in-store functionality of your retail mobile app, connect with the Mindgrub team today to get started.