Top Retail Apps: the future of online shopping

In Customer Engagement, Multichannel, Omnichannel, The Mobile Customer by Camille Stuppard

Nordstrom iPad App

As a product of my generation, I am a loyal Apple user and had the perfect trifecta – MacBook pro, iPad and iPhone – until recently.

A few months ago I fried my MacBook after spilling a sizeable glass of Espiral’s Vinho Verde (still my most frequent Trader Joes purchase) on my keyboard. Since the tragedy I’ve had to adapt and online shop on my other two devices. I noticed that a number of retailers have recently created mobile and tablet applications to in hopes of improving the digital experience for the omni-channel consumer.

Why is this growing trend important?

App development for tablets and mobile devices is becoming increasingly important as consumers move away from desktops and want to purchase things on the go. One of the biggest issues for online retailers is shopping cart abandonment. If a customer cannot figure out how to purchase the same items from their desktop versus their mobile device, the chances they abandon the cart or go elsewhere to fulfill that need increase. Retailers can keep their customers happy by providing a uniform and seamless interface across devices.

Fast facts:

  • 75.5% of merchants do not offer a mobile app1
  • 55% of internet time on retail properties is now spent on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets)2

As a dedicated online shopper, I thought I’d try some of the different applications on my iPad to see what works and what doesn’t. After asking my Facebook friends what major department stores they frequent, I settled on a list of 10 to research:

  1. Bloomingdale’s
  2. Dillard’s
  3. J.C. Penney
  4. Kohl’s
  5. Macy’s
  6. Neiman Marcus
  7. Nordstrom
  8. Saks
  9. Sears
  10. TJ Maxx

I downloaded the applications and tried all the basic functions (browsing, searching inventory, ordering for pick up and for delivery and finding a store) both on my iPad and on my work desktop to see the differences. Some apps were awesome and easy to navigate. Others had some things that still need to be worked out.

Here are my findings:

Nordstrom – overall rank: 1st place

I thought Nordstrom had the best app in the bunch. I found it very easy to navigate felt it really integrated other social media platforms. I have been shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale directly from my iPad.


  • Integrated experience:
    • Links to other social media platforms – Nordstrom Instagram photos fed onto the home page
    • Shows videos into the home page
    • Can access catalogs through the apps
  • Customer service available
    • Makes it easy to get help
    • Accessible by phone, email, and twitter
    • Customers can leave feedback through the app
  • Shows in-store events


  • No in-store scan feature

Public opinion:

  • App for iPad – no ratings
  • App for iPhone – 3 stars/10 ratings


Saks – overall rank: 2nd place


  • Find a store
    • Very easy to do
    • Directions available and open through the Maps app on my iPad, not through Google Maps online
  • User friendly
    • o Easy to navigate
    • Scan feature to check inventory in-store on the device
  • In touch with consumers
    • Able to register for text alerts through the app
    • Offers customers a chance to win $500 for simply rating the app/giving feedback


  • Cannot order items to be picked up in-store
    • Shows store availability, but doesn’t list in-store as a delivery option
  • Shipping
    • Free standard shipping is available for any order, but the user has to remember to enter the promo-code when checking out – doesn’t change price automatically

Public opinion:

  • App for iPad – 4.5 stars/20 ratings
  • App for iPhone – 4 stars/23 ratings


Macy’s – overall rank: 3rd place


  • Informative store information
    • Store descriptions include location and distance from user’s location
    • Also include upcoming events and food options at selected store


  • Straightforward
    • When trying to ship to store, results are hard to see
    • App processes input, but results require you to scroll so it doesn’t appear to have done anything

Public opinion:

  • No app for iPad
  • App for iPhone – 2 stars/77 ratings


Bloomingdale’s – overall rank: 4th place


  • Glitches
    • Took longer than any other app to load the picture of a selected item
    • When trying to ship to store, results are hard to see
    • App processes input, but results require you to scroll so it doesn’t appear to have done anything

Public opinion:

  • No app for iPad
  • App for iPhone – 1.5 stars/32 ratings


J.C. Penney – overall rank: 5th place


  • Location services
    • App couldn’t find my location
    • Took a long time to attempt to load directions and opened Google Maps on safari to do so

Public opinion:

  • App for iPad – 2 stars/52 ratings
  • App for iPhone – 2 stars/52 ratings


Sears – overall rank: 6th place


  • App navigation
    • Had to click through a lot more options to get to a specific category than on any other app
    • Hard to backtrack if you select the wrong item
  • Images were fuzzy given that app was made for a smaller screen

Public opinion:

  • No app for iPad
  • App for iPhone – 3 stars/8 ratings


Kohl’s – overall rank: 7th place


  • Location services
    • Could not find my location
  • Presentation
    • Sizes listed out of order when trying to order a garment
  • Unclear
    • Could not find a way to pick up item in-store
    • Sale banners listed online but not on the application – unclear if sale was limited to website or not

Public opinion:

  • App for iPad – 2 stars/11 ratings
  • App for iPhone – 1.5 stars/16 ratings


Neiman Marcus – overall rank: 8th place

In order to actually shop, the app re-directed me to the website. Given that I was comparing the experience on the applications, Neiman Marcus has been disqualified. There were a few things the app did do right, it just needs to be fully functional.


  • Find a store
    • Very easy to do
    • App showed distance to stores very clearly
    • Directions to store displayed clearly within the Neiman Marcus app


  • Can’t shop in the app!

Public opinion:

  • App for iPad – no ratings
  • App for iPhone – no ratings


TJ Maxx – overall rank: 9th place

No mobile or tablet app. This is disappointing for me as a Maxxinista, but I can understand due to their rotating inventory.

Dillard’s – overall rank: 10th place

No mobile or tablet app… it’s 2014. Get on that.

Disagree? Think your company’s app should be ranked? Let me know!

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[Image: Syndeca]