Retail

2018 Recap: The Year That Retailers Evolved With Their Mobile Apps

It has been a busy year in the world of mobile commerce, particularly with retail apps. Merchants from grocers to quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and gas stations rolled out new ways for consumers to transact from mobile ordering to scan-and-go checkout in 2018.

Below, PYMNTS rounds up the top trends of the year and sheds light on how retailers are tapping into mobile apps to make the shopping experience more convenient and less time consuming for shoppers. These are just some examples of how apps powered experiences from restaurant ordering to grocery checkout this year:

Apps As Mobile Grocery Checkout

For mobile checkout at the grocery store, Amazon kicked off the year in January with the opening of its cashierless C-store called Amazon Go. Shoppers download Amazon Go app and scan their phones when they walk into the store. And, with the help of computer vision and sensors, shoppers don’t have to check out at a traditional counter. Amazon, however, isn’t the only retailer that deployed similar technology this year.

In the fall, Walmart’s Sam’s Club launched a new brick-and-mortar location in Dallas with cutting-edge retail technology. To make purchases at the store, customers were able to use a new Sam’s Club Now mobile app to scan items as they perused the aisles and filled their shopping carts. Then, they simply paid by their phone instead of waiting on line. According to reports, the store does not have cashiers, but it does member hosts that are said to act like concierges.

The developments from Amazon Go and Sam’s Club come as checkout technology innovations matter to consumers: According to the PYMNTS Enterprise Retail Grocery Report, the most important factor when choosing a grocery retailer for nearly 17 percent of consumers is having the ability to scan and pay with a mobile phone.

Apps As Mobile Ordering Tools

Over in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) space, mobile apps influenced the design and layout of new locations this year. Dunkin’, for instance, unveiled a new concept store in January. The new 2,200-square-foot space comes as Dunkin’ is undergoing a bit of a rebrand, as the chain announced September that it was changing its name from Dunkin’ Donuts. But, brand name aside, Dunkin’, like Starbucks, guided customers toward mobile order-ahead technology this year.

But diners who placed orders ahead of time at QSRs might have found themselves waiting in line with other diners who still needed to place their orders. To prevent this from happening, Dunkin’s new store in Quincy had separate drive-through lanes for those who placed their orders ahead of time and those who didn’t in the drive through as well as a separate order-ahead queuing area within the store.

Starbucks also made inroads with mobile technology with Starbucks Delivery, with the help of Uber Eats this year. It plans to bring the technology to about a quarter of its U.S.-based, company-owned stores by the end of the second quarter, it was reported this December. The coffee chain, however, is no stranger to delivery; it already tested out the service earlier this year in Miami, where Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson noted that people embraced the chance to have their favorite beverages delivered.

Starbucks’ offering comes as shoppers are open to digital technology for placing orders: An overwhelming majority of consumers — 84 percent — have had a good experience with online/app ordering, according to the PYMNTS Restaurant Readiness Index.

Apps At The Pump

To help customers pay at the pump, P97, Shell And General Motors sought to reinvent the gas run this year with a way for consumers to find and buy gas via technology embedded in dashboards. The technology allowed drivers of eligible Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles to find their preferred gas stations and initiate in-vehicle payments for fuel purchases made at some 11,000 fuel stations that have the Shell brand in North America.

The move comes as 70 percent of consumers use mobile apps to assist with gas purchases to locate a gas station, according to the PYMNTS Paying At The Pump Report. As it stands, 73 percent of Bridge Millennials use mobile apps to pay for gas. And 62 percent of consumers in this demographic say that if an app is convenient, they might use it to pay at a gas station.

From QSRs to grocery stores and gas stations, retailers upgraded their apps and reduced payments friction through the use of smartphone technology. And, with consumers eager to use these technologies, it is now up to retailers to tap into the mobile economy with apps heading into 2019.

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