10 Best Retail Apps of 2019

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According to data from the Synchrony 2018 Digital Study, 67% of consumers have downloaded a retailer’s app. More than half of those people said they downloaded the app to take advantage of a coupon or discount offer. Furthermore, 57% of shoppers report using a retailer’s app while in their store, according to a Yes Marketing survey from earlier this year. Mobile apps are no longer an optional technology for retailers. They are crucial tools for increasing shopper satisfaction, boosting customer engagement, and enhancing both the offline and the in-store experience.

With in-app usage time increasing by 60% in 2018 compared to just a few years ago, in 2016 (see: App Annie’s State of Mobile 2019 report), we decided to find out what retail apps customers are loving right now.

In doing our research, we considered the following factors: app store ranking, app store reviews, media and blog mentions and in-app innovations like personalization through Artificial Intelligence (AI) or usage of Augmented Reality (AR). A good retail app needs to be more than just a handheld version of a retailer’s website. It should be practical, innovative, engaging, and offer a seamless, on-brand experience.

Here are our top 10 picks for best retail apps of 2019 (in no particular order):

 

1. The Home Depot

(#56 Shopping App, 4.6 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • Account: track orders, save lists across devices, personalized homepage, view in-store receipts
  • Instant checkout: buy items in as little as a single step
  • Store guide: find nearby stores, pick a product, check inventory, tap the map
  • Find the perfect color with the project color app
  • Shop local offers and weekly ads
  • Create a shopping list
  • App exclusives: turn on notifications to get savings alerts
  • Image search: shop similar products with app image search
  • Special buys of the day (discounts with a countdown of availability)
  • Book installations services

 

Why it made our list:

The Home Depot app contains a host of ultra-practical features, making the online and in-store shopping experience as efficient and seamless as possible. It was also rated the #1 retail app by Forrester, and the #5 store-based retailer app in terms of time spent in 2018 according to App Annie.

 

2. H&M

(#30 Shopping App, 4.7 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • In-app promo codes
  • Clothing catalog
  • Magazine
  • Loyalty program: join for 10% off, exclusive offers, free online returns
  • Save favorites
  • Location-based offers
  • Fashion updates
  • Scan barcodes to search for product info (like price or sizing availability in-store and online)
  • Use your own photos of clothes or shoes to find similar-looking items in stock

 

Why it made our list:

The H&M app lets you scan items for real-time item availability, both in-store and online. You can also upload pics to find similar-looking items, get notifications for sales/fashion events and includes other useful info, like when an out-of-stock item is back in stock.

 

3. Target

(#10 Shopping App, 4.9 Stars in Apple Store, Editors’ Choice Award)

 

Core app features:

  • Enable notifications for order updates, back in stock info, alerts, deals
  • Search and scan products
  • Weekly ads
  • Catalogs
  • Cartwheel offers (deals)
  • Birthday party ideas, college prep, and other tips
  • Make a shopping list and see related cartwheel deals, works across devices
  • Target wallet: offers, coupons, gift cards, Target Redcard all in one place for fast checkout
  • Siri shortcuts: use voice commands to save time and taps

 

Why it made our list:

Currently one of the most popular retail shopping apps in the App Store, the Target app features a host of cool features like cartwheel offers, practical shopping advice, push notifications for deals and back-in-stock products, as well as built-in Siri shortcuts to save time and taps. The Target app was ranked by App Annie as the #2 store-based retailer app in terms of time spent in 2018 and the #4 top retail app by Forrester.

 

4. Best Buy

(#54 Shopping App, 4.8 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • Access to your My Best Buy account so you can track and manage purchases
  • Find products ready for pick up in one hour
  • Daily deals, student deals, and deals inspired by your shopping history
  • Weekly store ads
  • Saved items and lists
  • Help center
  • Scan products
  • Find trade-in value for old electronics
  • Search for open-box items in store
  • Preview item in your home

 

Why it made our list:

Functional and straightforward, just like its stores, the Best Buy app is filled with money-saving deals, product guides and other helpful information, like the trade-in value of your electronics. One of the coolest app features, however, is the ability to “preview” an item (like a TV) in your space to ensure it fits before you buy it.

 

5. Lululemon

(#156 Shopping App, 4.9 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • In-store inventory information
  • Community and health events (eg. Seawheeze 2019, a half marathon in Vancouver)
  • Store happenings: yoga classes and online courses
  • Save favorites
  • Community section with yoga and mindfulness lessons
  • Real and authentic stories by Lululemon ambassadors
  • Behind-the-scenes gear videos

 

Why it made our list:

The Lululemon app is user-friendly and focuses on community building. It includes easy access to store happenings, online lessons, and inspirational ambassador stories that promote healthy living and holistic wellness.

 

6. Sephora

(#63 Shopping App, 4.7 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • Easy access to Beauty Insider account
  • App-only exclusives
  • Notifications for new launches, beauty deals, other special announcements
  • Find beauty classes, events, shopping tips
  • Voice search within the app, eg. I need a dark red lipstick, show me the most popular foundations
  • 24-hour early access on Wednesdays to new products
  • Create lists
  • Rewards bazaar
  • Beauty offers
  • Community: Groups (eg. Everything Eyes, Lip Lovers), Conversations (Q&A), Gallery of looks
  • Virtual Artist: try on a variety of beauty looks without actually putting on makeup!
  • Download virtual tutorials

 

Why it made our list:

The Sephora app is jam-packed with helpful beauty advice, in-app exclusives and innovative technology that enhances the shopping experience. Our favorite feature? The Virtual Artist tool. It uses AR technology to swap out makeup looks on your face using your camera (in selfie mode). Simply raise your eyebrows to change your look! The Sephora app was also rated the #2 retail app by Forrester.

 

7. Walmart

(#3 Shopping App, 4.7 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • Easy access at the top of the app to categories like back to school, summer shop, electronics
  • Top-rated products
  • Product guides
  • Easy reorder section 1 tap away
  • Barcode scanner
  • Store finder and aisle location for products
  • Pharmacy
  • Money services
  • Lists and registries
  • Weekly ads
  • Custom cake ordering
  • Next day delivery

 

Why it made our list:

It’s no surprise that the single biggest retailer in the US is also one of the most downloaded retail apps in the world. The Walmart app is chock full of practical features like lists, easy reorders, store finders, barcode scanning, and shopping guides, featuring everything from back-to-school picks to first apartment faves. The Walmart app was also ranked by App Annie as the #1 store-based retailer app in terms of time spent in 2018.

 

8. Nike

(#7 Shopping App, 4.9 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • NikePlus member benefits: shoes we think you’ll want, reserved for you prior to launch day. An exclusive shop with products you won’t find anywhere else. Invites to members-only events and partner promotions
  • On-demand Nike experts to help you with your purchases.
  • Behind-the-scenes content from athletes and Nike designers.
  • Your personal store: customized to your interests (eg. running, lifestyle) and with fast checkout and free shipping
  • Latest trends and styling info
  • Scan products for additional info using NikeConnect

 

Why it made our list:

While the Nike app is the only retail app in our list to require an account creation (with personalization preferences) prior to even using the app, it certainly delivers a lot of value in exchange for your personal information. By becoming a NikePlus member, you’ll gain access to amazing events and deals (like Summer Fridays at Sweetgreen where you get $3 off your order). Other great app features include behind-the-scenes content with athletes and access to Nike experts for guidance on purchases.

 

9. Macy’s

(#38 Shopping App, 4.8 Stars in App Store)

 

Core app features:

  • Store Mode: scan for prices, get deal alerts, check store directory, scan items in-store, pay on the spot and go.
  • See furniture in your space virtually before you buy
  • Snap a pic of something you’d like to shop and find it or a similar item
  • Get notifications for deals, offers
  • Immediate extra 25% off app orders
  • Scan barcode
  • Save offers
  • Registry and lists
  • Make and share style boards
  • Star rewards

 

Why it made our list:

Retail giant, Macy’s, has one of the best download incentives of all retailers: 25% off your first app order! Now that they have your attention, Macy’s actually delivers some other sweet features in their app. They give you the ability to scan an item in-store and pay for it on the spot (no checkout lines necessary!). Like Home Depot and H&M, the Macy’s app also lets you snap a picture of an item you’d like to buy and it’ll tell you if they have it in stock or if they offer a similar product. Finally, the Macy’s app contains a Pinterest-inspired feature that lets you make and share style boards with friends.

 

10. Under Armour

(#129 Shopping App, 4.8 Stars in App Store) + Record by Under Armour + the 5 other “Map My” UA apps (eg. Map My Run)

 

Core app features:

  • Product recommendations based on your profile and activities you’re into
  • Get up-to-date info on your favorite athletes
  • Find local in-store events, including athlete appearances
  • Fast shopping
  • Browse Instagram style pics
  • Notifications for new product drops, app offers and UA athlete collections
  • Add favorites

 

Why it made our list:

Under Armour is the only retailer in our list that features not one, not two, but SEVEN branded apps – all of which are highly rated in the App Store! Besides its main shopping app, UA has launched a health and fitness activity app called Record as well as 5 activity-specific apps that track your workouts and feature GPS-enabled elements: Map My Run, Map My Fitness, Map My Walk, Map My Ride, and Map My Hike. Their bevy of apps are a clear indicator of the brand’s devotion to fitness and personalization.

 

Building a user-friendly app that helps solve customer problems, enhances the in-store or online experience through interactive and dynamic features, and empowers purchasing decisions should be top-of-mind for all major retailers. Thankfully, retailers are already starting to catch on to the importance of mobile apps: 50% of retail brands surveyed by Shopgate in early 2019 said that their mobile shopping app was a top priority in their omnichannel strategy.

Coming into 2020, the retailers who are willing to adapt to the demands and lifestyles of the increasingly digital-first shopper are the ones that are going to reap the biggest rewards. With the ubiquity of smartphones in the hands of every consumer, mobile apps are one of the best channels for brick-and-mortar retailers to attract and retain customers who otherwise can’t (or won’t) shop in their store.