Despite 18 months of media frenzy about m-commerce the vast majority of retailers still have no mobile apps or executable mobile strategy. Of retailers that have apps several have achieved remarkable success. RIS recently recognized four such retailers with Mobile App of the Year awards at the just-concluded Retail Technology Conference. Find out who won and why.
Last year RIS News launched the first annual 2010 Mobile App of the Year Awards and recognized four leading retailers who were fast-moving pioneers. This year RIS continues the effort to map the evolution of M-commerce by recognizing four additional retailers with 2011 Mobile App of the Year Awards.
Nominations were solicited from a broad spectrum of industry experts, and we received 21 nominations to review. Not as many as expected, but the truth is most retail chains have not yet launched a mobile app or progressed beyond deploying a stripped-down version of their websites on a mobile browser.
Interestingly, it's not an exaggeration to say the four Mobile App of the Year award winners from 2010 could have won again this year had we not taken them out of competition, a ruling we might reconsider going forward.
While retailers are moving as fast as they can, the truth is retail as a whole has a long way to go before it successfully taps into a smart device's full capabilities for location awareness, photo snapping, gaming, video, audio or even auto fill suggestions in text fields.
However, the winners of the 2011 RIS Mobile App of the Year Award are truly exceptional compared to their peers and understanding what they are doing clearly points the way for others to follow.
2011 Award Winners
Three of this year's award categories are repeats from last year and one is new. The three from last year are: Customer Experience, Best Shopping and Rich Mobile Experience.
The new one is Mobile Enterprise and Store, which recognizes the usefulness of smart devices and mobile apps as powerful tools that transform how retailers conduct business and better serve and delight shoppers. Judging for the awards was done by select industry experts, RIS editorial advisory board members, and the editors of RIS.
Customer Experience - - - Lamps Plus
Lamps Plus is a designer lighting, furniture and home dÉcor retailer with more than 40 stores in seven western states. Its Lamps Plus Editions app for iPhone, iPad and iTouch offers multiple sets of digital, interactive catalogs that are highly visual and have multiple paths to navigate through the pages. The photo-rich approach is especially well suited to the iPad form factor and the beauty of the Lamps Plus products.
Tapping a product brings up a comprehensive specifications page with reviews and the ability to add to cart and purchase. Other functionalities include search, email sharing and bump sharing. Bill Gratke, vice president planning and supply chain management, accepted the award for Lamps Plus.
Rich Mobile Experience - - - Toys R Us
With 1,550 stores and $13.4 billion in annual revenue Toys R Us launched an iPhone app that allows shoppers to browse and search the retailer's online catalog. Searches can be made through a convenient toy finder button, and coupons can be activated on a mobile phone or by texting a number on an iPad, which generates a text coupon sent to the shopper’s mobile phone.
Products can be added to a list or shared through Facebook, e-mail or a text message, and a special area called Top Toys features a selection of the most popular items. Dave Phillip, director of store operations, accepted the award for Toys R Us.
Enterprise and Store - - - The Home Depot
No one keeps official records of the size of mobile device roll outs, but RIS News called Home Depot’s First Phone initiative the largest of its kind in retailing. The project involved deploying 30,000 transactional/communication devices in 1,970 stores, a remarkable feat that cost $64 million.
The First Phone mobile devices provide associates with handheld technology that combines inventory management and analytics functions, a phone, a store walkie-talkie, label printing, and POS.
Mobile transaction and productivity apps are a big part of the rollout and the principle reason Home Depot won a Mobile App of the Year award.
The mobile devices not only serve and access apps, but they are also radio-based walkie-talkies and phones. A thin client mobile POS application accessed by a mobile Web browser interacts with the stores' core POS system and interfaces with an attachable magnetic stripe reader to process debit and credit card transactions. To complete the order the devices interact with mobile receipt printers via Bluetooth.
Mike Guhl, senior director of store and credit systems for Home Depot, not only accepted the award but delivered the closing keynote presentation.
Best Shopping- - - Best Buy
The final award winner is Best Buy’s mobile app for iPhone and Android phones. It offers weekly deals on more than 100 products separated into categories, as well as special offers on products that just arrived in stores and pre-ordered items.
Products have star ratings and customer reviews, and there is photo-image scanning capability for barcode-based searches. One nice touch is the ability to log in and access your Reward Zone loyalty program account. Another nice touch lets shoppers share their wish lists with Facebook and Twitter friends, plus check gift card balance and order status.