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An Untapped Opportunity for Grocers

A deeper understanding of store app usage can unlock unimagined insights into shopper behavior
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The store mobile app is an underutilized tool in the retailer’s arsenal.

Consumers around the world spent more than 100 billion hours using shopping apps in 2021. That’s handing retailers a lot of time to capture sales short-term while building coveted relationships and loyalty that pay dividends longer term.

Inmar Intelligence’s recent survey of 1,000 U.S. shoppers provides meaningful insights surrounding the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with shoppers through store mobile apps.

The store mobile app is an underutilized tool in the retailer’s arsenal. But usage is growing and promising opportunities to engage consumers and capture loyalty. The majority of consumers (68%) have downloaded a mobile app from their favorite grocery store. Walmart’s store app is by far the most entrenched with 41% of consumers preferring it over others. The biggest drivers of usage are searching for deals and the weekly ads (76%).

Despite all the successes of store mobile apps, there remains opportunity for improvement. Only 29% of consumers who use grocery stores’ apps use them every week; and just 13% use them constantly (to build shopping lists, find deals, etc.). Only 24% use the app to join the store loyalty program. The mobile app is an engagement tool that could be leveraged with both online and in-stores shoppers to drive engagement and cement loyalty. A digital loyalty program allows retailers to build highly personalized experiences through content and offers based on a shopper’s preferences and history. Demonstrating a commitment to personalization and making it easier for shoppers to find what they need helps score points that drive lifetime value.

In the current inflationary environment, Inmar’s survey found that shoppers primarily use the store app to search for deals/rewards (44%) and 32% report they are using the app to look for the weekly ad. Deals have always been at the top of a shopper’s desires. Shopper’s expectations have changed for how and when they receive these rewards. Digital is far easier than clipping paper coupons and to apply deals to their shopping cart, so  it's not surprising shoppers are migrating from paper to digital.

The mobile app is also driving store selection. Nineteen percent of shoppers reported they chose to shop at their favorite grocery store because of its great mobile app (more than delivery/curbside as an option and pharmacy services). 

List building in the app is a customer engagement opportunity. Only 28% of those surveyed make their weekly grocery list on the app. The list-building stage offers retailers a golden opportunity to incent bigger baskets or to offer trial opportunities for new items. In-store shopping creates many opportunities for impulse buying and the mobile app could be leveraged similarly. Two years of pandemic has left consumers wanting to try new things especially the highly digital Millennial shoppers.

Sixty-two percent of the shoppers we surveyed would like the store to send them offers prior to their shopping trip. So the minute retailers notice activity in the list-building feature, alerts could be leveraged to trigger personalized deals. Consider this: 13% of the shoppers we surveyed use the app constantly to build their shopping list, check deals and availability. All of these check-ins are opportunity-rich touchpoints with your brand.

Time-saving is the new convenience metric. Convenience drives shopper preference for online with 52% of consumers who shop for groceries online doing so for convenience due to time constraints. Further cementing today’s shopper’s busy lives, 30% reported they pick up at the curb while 28% have groceries delivered. And while the convenience of online shopping is recognized, most shoppers don’t expect it should come at a price. Great online experiences are important, but only 8% are willing to pay more for the convenience of shopping online.

Investments in the creation and maintenance of store apps have been significant. But they hold value far beyond what is being utilized in most every case. A deep study and understanding of store app usage can unlock unimagined insights into shopper behavior. The data captured, when the app’s full potential is put at shoppers’ fingertips, can be invaluable to retailers and brands.

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