When Apple introduced the App Store in 2008, retailers and restaurants soon released apps as a means to make their business more accessible to customers. The thing is, though, most of the ones they released were not very good. Some apps, in fact, were embarrassingly bad, and still continue to be bad to this day.
It seems only logical that big name businesses would be able to hire great developers to create amazing apps, but for the majority of retail and restaurant apps this is simply not the case. However, in the several dozen retail and restaurant apps available today, there are 15 apps that are quite good. Some even great.
If you’re a fan of 7-Eleven, you’ll find a lot of great uses for this uniquely designed app. The top navigation bar displays a personalized message, and the time, temperature and date, which is useful information to have in the morning when making a quick coffee pit stop. What makes the app unique, though, is the UI, which is divided into four sections and each one can be opened by tapping the corresponding icon.
Find My 7-Eleven will help you find the closest location and offers a slew of filters (e.g. fuel, car wash, Red Box) to find the location with everything you need. What’s In Store displays the most current promotion (e.g. $1 coffee on Wednesdays). Savings offers up multiple store coupons that can be redeemed right from the app, though it would be nice if coupons could be sent to Passbook. The Goods is a list of product suggestions personalized for you, though I’m not entirely sure how the app can make suggestions personal.
The Apple Store offers a great way to research and purchase products from Apple. If you’re curious as to when you can get your next iPhone at the subsidized price, the app also includes a method to check your upgrade date. While that’s all well and good, the killer features take place in the Stores section, which allows you to easily find the nearest Apple Store, check store details, set up an appointment at the Genius Bar, schedule some One-to-One time to learn about almost any of the hardware and software Apple offers, and see when the next Workshops and Events take place.
The best feature available in Apple Store is EasyPay. When you’re at an Apple Store, EasyPay allows you to quickly purchase a product by scanning its barcode and completing a few short steps right within the app. You can also use EasyPay to quickly find product ratings, reviews and specifications about a product you’re interested in purchasing. While you can’t purchase big ticket items like an iPhone, iPad or iMac, nearly anything displayed on a shelf can be purchased with EasyPay.
I’ve used the Best Buy app on and off for the past couple of years, and it’s certainly come a long way. The app includes of number of features you’d expect, such as the ability to browse products (including a barcode scanner if you’re browsing in-store), find locations and check out the current sales items. There are also quite a few handy features, such as the ability to check the balance of your gift card (great for those that can never remember, like me), create a wishlist, check your phone’s upgrade date, and see how much money you’ll get for a game trade-in (a feature that’s definitely missing from the GameStop app).
If you’re a RewardZone member, there’s a dedicated section for your point balance, and you can see a list of purchases and the number of points you earned from said purchases. The Offers section will list any RewardZone coupons that are available to you, but you’re are not able to redeem offers, which is extremely disappointing (though it’s one of the very few minuses in a well designed app).
Nearly every major pizza chain has a dedicated app for placing orders, but Dominos is by far the best. After logging in with an account, you can use the simple step-by-step process to place their order. When adding toppings to the pizza, one of the more handy features are the icons that make it very simple to split toppings to individual sides. These little UI features can be found throughout the app, and are one of the main reasons why placing an order is so simple.
Once you’ve placed your order, you’ll be able to use the Dominos Tracker to see when each stage of the pizza making process (e.g. prepping, cooking, out for delivery) is complete. Whenever my fiancé and I order a pizza, she often asks what’s taking it so long to get to our place; when we don’t order Dominos, I wish I had this feature to answer her question.
While the Five Guys app doesn’t have many fancy bells and whistles, it is simple and easy to use. The main purpose of the app is to place pick-up orders, which begins by locating your nearest location (you can also create a list of favorite locations to choose from later). Once you’ve found a location, you can get directions or begin the order placing process. If you want to place an order for the future, you can do so by selecting a specific date and time (I tend to place orders with a 15 minute delay so that I know my food is freshly made when I get to the location).
Finding and selecting menu items is a breeze, as the app’s design clearly defines each item, and selecting individual toppings is as simple as crossing off items on a checklist. When you’re ready to pay, the app offers the ability to save your credit card information, which makes the total ordering process take less than a few minutes. Since Five Guys always puts your order in a bag, regardless of whether you plan to eat at the location or not, I find that using this app to place your order ahead of time is a great way to avoid potentially long lines.
The Great Clips app is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it performs very well. The app is essentially a store locator, but includes a really handy added bonus — the ability to check in at a location. When you pull up the map, you’ll see each location marked with an estimated wait time, so you know how long it will take for you to get in to get your ears lowered.
When you tap on a Check-In icon, you’ll need to enter your name, phone number and the number of people getting their hair cut. You can also tap the Salon Info button in the upper-right corner to view the location’s address, get directions, view the location’s hours of operation, and even call. If you’re a regular at Great Clips, this is a must-have app.
Many retail-clothing companies offer an app, but H&M is of the few companies to get it right. The app allows you to browse through H&M’s entire collection, and the UI is designed in a way that you don’t get lost while doing so (an issue with most retail-clothing company apps).
In addition, you can easily add products to your wish list and manage your H&M account. If desired, you can receive push notifications for offers and events at your local store. If you’re in need of some fashion inspiration or are looking for a new look, H&M offers an entire section dedicated to do just that by offering a wide array of photos and videos.
The Jimmy John’s app is similar to Five Guys, in that it doesn’t offer a lot of features, but it does make placing an order very simple. Once you’ve decided to order for delivery or pickup (you can even just repeat your previous order, which is handy for me since I tend to get the same thing every time), you’ll need to enter your address, select a time (if ordering delivery), select your order items and make your payment.
If you’re not sure what to order, the Food section displays an example of each type of item offered by Jimmy John’s (e.g. subs, clubs, unwich).
Like most retail apps, Lowe’s offers standard features like searching and browsing for products. There’s also a built-in scanner for looking up items, and the scanner can read barcodes, QR codes and even Microsoft Tags. From the menu you can access features like a store locator, and a gift card section that allows you to check the balance or buy a gift card. The Lowe’s website is chock-full of videos and images for project ideas and inspiration, and all of this material is available in the app as well (you can even save images to your account to view later).
If you’re a MyLowe’s member, you can view previous purchases tied to your account and create lists for projects. The Home Profile feature is a very handy tool, which allows you add items you’ve purchased from Lowe’s into individual spaces of your house or apartment. You can also view the square footage and dimension details for spaces, but that information can only be entered on the Lowe’s website (unfortunately).
My Wendy’s isn’t a traditional restaurant app, in that it doesn’t focus on allowing you to place an order to pick up later (unless you’re in Portland). While the app does include a method to find Wendy’s locations, the main purpose of My Wendy’s is to assist you with finding menu items to order. You can view a list of food categories (e.g. Old Fashion Hamburgers, Fries & Sides, Beverages), and each menu item is represented in a high quality image.
One of the great things about My Wendy’s is that the nutritional value of each menu item displayed in the forefront, allowing you to make educated decisions about what you wish to order. Even better, though, is the Calorie Range feature that allows you to select a calorie count (e.g. 500, 600, 700, etc.) for your entire meal. Once a count is selected, the app will show you a list of food combinations that meet that count. You can personalize entrees to see how the calorie count is adjusted, and if an arrow is displayed next to an item you can flick left or right to view additional options.
The Nordstrom app is beautifully designed and makes it easy to shop through the store’s entire catalog. You can sort by departments or brands, and a scanner is readily available for use while you’re at a location. If products are available in multiple colors, the app will refresh the product’s review image to display the product in the color you selected. Filter options make it easy to find products in your size, price range and color preference. If available in your area, you can even filter by items available at your store.
If you log in with an account, you can add items to a wish list, and even create a wish list for your friends. Your Style Profile includes a variety of style options (e.g. classic, modern, trendy) to narrow down clothing options sold by Nordtrom. The app’s only real downside is that you can’t pay your bill if you have a Nordstrom card account.
The Old Navy app is kind of a mixed bag of quality. Browsing clothing product within the app is certainly useable, but it’s nowhere near as well designed as browsing in the Nordstrom or H&M app. Though a bit buried, the app does offer the option of viewing the status of your orders, buy gift cards, and manage or sign-up for an Old Navy credit card. Since Old Navy is owned by Gap, you can actually shop additional brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta.
What makes Old Navy fun, though, is the Snap feature that offers surprises each time you capture a photo of any Old Navy logo (you can even pull up a logo on your computer and snap away). Surprises include deals (e.g. save $5 when you spend $25), games or fashion advice. If you’re a fan of Pinterest, you can view Old Navy’s Pinterest account from within the app.
Target’s app offers a slew of options. In addition to standard shopping features (e.g. browsing products and find stores), you can create lists, view Target’s weekly ad and manage your My Target account (the app is known for having issues with logging in, but hopefully it will be addressed in a future update).
The manner in which you create lists is rather unique, as it’s more or less souped-up wish list in which you can create multiple lists and add products sold by Target to said lists. Even better though, is that you can find and even create a wedding registry or baby registry right from the app. If you like coupons, Target offers a list of new coupons each week that can be added to Passbook. You can also add your Target gift cards to the app, which can then be redeemed from your phone.
The Walgreens app is packed with features, which can sometimes make it difficult to navigate. Luckily, this isn’t the case, as the app uses a grid of icons to clearly define each section. The Pharmacy allows you to refill your pills and includes an extremely handy pill reminder that tracks your medication and will inform you when you’re do for a refill. You can upload and print photos from your iPhone to be picked up later, create a shopping list, view the weekly ad, clip coupons and browse store merchandise.
Walgreens is also one of the few apps that takes advantage of Passbook, by allowing you to save your Rewards Card. If you don’t fancy using Passbook, your Rewards Card can be scanned from within the app, and you can view your purchase activity and points balance.
Walmart’s app includes many of the features you’ll find in Target’s offering, such as browsing store products, viewing the weekly ad and creating lists. The manner in which it utilizes lists is quite different than Target’s, however, but is extremely well done and needs to be copied by all department store apps.
Before going to a Walmart, you can search for items in the store to add to your list, and as long as you’ve selected a specific location, the aisle number for the product will be displayed with the product. What’s even better is that as you check off products on your list, the app even give you an estimated total for all the products you’ve selected. If you use Walmart’s pharmacy, you’ll enjoy the ability to refill prescriptions and view your prescription history.
Well there you have it; 15 really useful retail and restaurant apps. If one of your favorites is missing from this list, please feel free to share in the comments section.