Kirsty Bisset
Kirsty Bisset

The latest in app-based retail

by Kirsty Bisset. In-store apps are driving the merger of online shopping and in-person retail. From product information to shopping assistance, these apps help enhance customer experiences.

by Kirsty Bisset. It’s irrefutable, shopping online is convenient, and consumers have a wide range of choices when they shop online. Equally, the in-person shopping experience allows consumers to engage directly with products, and they feel more confident when making purchases.

It stands to reason that brands combining the benefits of both will become increasingly relevant.  Cue accompanied apps – in-store apps that are driving the merger of online shopping and in-person retail. From product information to shopping assistance, these apps help enhance customer experiences. Here’s a few ways how.

Streamlined returns

Returns often send shudders down retailers’ spines, but the good news is that ‘Happy Returns’ do exist. The Ulta Beauty Happy Returns app allows customers thinking about returning an item to ask questions and request a return when they have all the information to hand. Once the return has been approved, the system also facilitates a seamless physical return process. The ‘beauty’ of this app, and others like it, is that they simplify the return process for both retailers and customers because the retailer can respond in real-time to customer inquiries.

And, although many customers are purchasing items online, Ulta Beauty reported that the majority of products are returned in-store. Given returned items cost more and take longer to process, the chances of them resulting in miscommunications is high. Improving customer retention and satisfaction are key goals of the Happy Returns application.

eCommerce and AI

To enhance digital shopping experiences, Haptik created Buzzo, its artificial intelligence assistant. Users can navigate product choices with a voice-enabled interface using the AI-powered voice assistant, which mimics the in-store assisted shopping experience. To understand a user’s natural language voice commands, Buzzo analyses meta data such as filters, reviews, pricing, and tags. To make the shopping experience as pleasing as possible, Buzzo makes meaningful recommendations in addition to suggesting upsells and cross-sells.

In-store shopping apps

Women’s clothing and accessories retailer, Chico, has an app where customers can search online inventories, locate stores, scan barcodes in-store, and view content carousels through this application, which goes beyond traditional retail store applications. By scanning a barcode, customers can easily obtain additional information about an item. After scanning the barcode, the item’s online page will open, displaying details about the item, its variations, and its availability. Chico’s loyalty program is also integrated into the application.


Navigation within retail is nothing new, but the latest technology is diving a lot deeper. One example is the new app, Simon Search, from shopping mall owner and manager, the Simon Property Group. This app allows customers to search a retailer’s website using their mobile phones as ‘smart kiosks’ within the mall and its stores. Simon Search’s unique feature is that it not only indicates where a product is located in a specific store, it enables customers to search through product inventories and find other stores that sell the product.

Simon Search has been implemented across 29 of Simon Property Group’s shopping mall locations. According to the group, this pilot test should boost consumers’ interest in malls bringing shoppers back, as well as improve the journey experience and improve travel efficiency. Additionally, the convenience of this search tool will eliminate the need for employees to answer customers’ questions individually, resulting in an increase in employee productivity.


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Kirsty Bisset is Managing Director of HaveYouHeard Durban.




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