Grocery Shopping App Development: Advanced Shopping List and Functionality

In today’s busy world, people use apps for almost everything: watching TV shows, tracking budgets, and of course going shopping. With data by researchers from the Mays Business School showing that retail app users buy 33 percent more frequently and spend 37 percent more than their non-app-using peers, it’s not surprising that the leading grocery retailers worldwide are investing in branded mobile applications. 

We’ve carefully analyzed branded applications from retail giants like Walmart, Target, Costco, and Whole Foods as well as supermarket startups. Our findings will help you create a powerful branded app for your grocery retail business. In this article, we focus on the most vital feature of any grocery app – the shopping list. 

Consolidate all information

Typically, grocery shopping list apps from retailers provide users with complete and relevant information about products.  

Lidl Shopping list

Most retailers create online supermarkets to provide customers with information about a product’s price, discounts, and nutrition (for food items). Costco goes further and attaches a PDF with complete information to each product in their database. Also, most in-store grocery apps allow users to check the availability of products in a certain store.

Advanced search and categorization is another must for any grocery app. But how can retailers store and process giant piles of data about products that need to be regularly updated? 

This functionality, as well as online order management, is impossible without a reliable and scalable database. If you want to explore this topic in detail, we recommend you read our guide on vital things to consider when choosing a database for your app. It contains a detailed overview of popular databases and some tips for choosing one.

You can also mix and match databases, with each serving a particular purpose. For instance, Walmart uses the MySQL and Cassandra databases for storage, while Neo4j helps them build powerful product recommendation algorithms. 

Stuff your app with a rich feature set

A shopping list isn’t limited to simple add, edit, and delete functionality. We’ve picked the coolest features you can flavor your shoppers' lists app with. 

Rearranging list

  • Multiple input options 

Search and manual input may be inconvenient, so let’s check out some alternative ways to add items to the shopping list:

1. List of favorites. With a list of groceries they like, users can quickly add frequently bought items to a shopping list. 

2. Barcode scanning. With barcode scanning, an aggregating app reads a product’s barcode so the user can directly add the item to a list. To implement barcode scanning, you can use Google’s Barcode API (now part of ML Kit) for iOS and Android or the AVFoundation framework for iOS.

Barcode scanning

3. Voice input. Adding, removing, or making entire lists using your voice isn’t a dream anymore. Also, your app should be integrated with popular assistants: Google Assistant is common for Android devices, while Siri assists users with Apple devices. 

Read also: How We Integrated Siri in a Third-Party App

  • Multiple shopping lists 

Let’s say a user wants to create a food shopping list for Tuesday’s BBQ party and at the same time they need to buy products for tonight’s family dinner. Mixing two lists or deleting one to create another is inconvenient. That’s why you should enable multiple lists as Costco and Target did.

  • Easy sharing

A customer who creates a grocery list should be able to share it in one tap with someone who’s in the store. Also, make sure to offer multiple sharing options. For instance, users can share lists in the Lidl app in popular messengers and on social networks as well as convert lists to Notes or save them in Google Drive. Target enables users to print a shopping list from a home printer in a few taps.

Sharing and converting lists in Lidl

  • Reminders 

A grocery shopping app can remind users to buy staples such as milk, bread, and eggs. For example, an app called Daily Bread lets users know when they’re about to run out of groceries. Previously, we discussed how to implement push notifications in your application for these types of reminders.

  • Coupons and loyalty programs

Coupons and weekly ads are closely connected with shopping list functionality. For instance, when a user adds an item to a shopping list, the app can alert them if there are coupons available to print or load to their grocery store loyalty card. Target allows shoppers to browse, filter, and find bargains based on grocery essentials by matching local deals with coupons from a user’s favorite brands.

According to a study by and LISNR published on eMarketer, top benefits of using an app for users were coupons (87.6%), loyalty/rewards programs (79.7%) and product search features (56.7%).

Most users are equally enthusiastic about digital and printed coupons provided that an app gives them a simple way to turn virtual coupons into real dollar savings. Users will certainly appreciate customization: offer them customized coupons based on their current shopping lists. 

  • Cost calculator

When a user creates a shopping list from items in the database, your app can calculate the cost of the order using a simple price calculator. You can also allow users to calculate the cost with loyalty cards and discounts. 

Read also: Building a Loyalty App That Works

  • Recipes 

The Whole Foods Market app and the Stop and Shop app are only two examples of apps that combine a recipe book with standard shopping list functionality. Users of these apps can browse hundreds of recipes. If they like a recipe, they can see the full list of items for it and add them to their shopping list. 

Main points you should be careful with

1. Complicated registration and login. Obstacles to accessing an app confuse and frustrate users, stopping them from using it. Enabling shoppers to use an app’s basic features without signing up for an account or logging in is the solution to this problem. It’s also important to simplify the sign-up process for shoppers who do want to use all the app’s features. In addition, ensuring easy login for returning users is important. So choose a full-stack service provider carefully.

2. Glut of features. Think carefully about what features to add to your app. There seems to be a growing tendency toward simplification. Users don’t appreciate being snowed under with notifications and constantly haunted by sidebar ads offering products they’ve already searched for or bought. Keeping an app easy to use requires constantly questioning its existing features. Every new feature must be justified, and if it’s not, then removing it from the marketplace platform is the best solution.

Going beyond: pickup and delivery solutions

A full-featured shopping list may really come in handy for loyal customers. But typically, a shopping list is only the first step in the customer journey. That's why most retailers have already implemented online shopping functionality with pickup and grocery delivery services. 

Statistics show that adding online shopping is the right decision — and a timely one. According to a 2020 US online grocery survey by Coresight Research, more than half of respondents have bought groceries online. This is twice as many as in the previous two years. Moreover, the survey shows that US online grocery sales grew 22% in 2019 and are predicted to grow 40% this year, propelled by high demand from the lockdown.

Read also: How to Find a Dedicated Team of Software Developers

Let’s take a closer look at how the whole online grocery shopping process works: 

  1. A customer chooses the time and store location for pickup or date and location for online delivery service. To enable this functionality, implement a calendar into your application. 

  2. The customer creates a shopping list with products from the store. 

  3. The app calculates the total and redirects the customer to a checkout page. On the checkout page, the customer can add coupons or loyalty cards.

  4. The customer pays directly in the app or with cash upon local delivery. To receive payments in the app, you should integrate a payment gateway like Braintree or Stripe or similar. In one of our previous articles, we discussed in detail how you can easily integrate a payment gateway into your application. 

  5. The customer receives a notification that the order is ready for pickup or that a delivery driver is nearby. Walmart also allows customers to track deliveries in real time after an order is dispatched. 

With Walmart’s in-store pickup option, orders are prepared beforehand so customers have no need to walk down the aisles. They can just drive to the designated pickup location and a personal shopper will put their bags directly in the trunk. With home delivery, orders are delivered right to the customer’s doorstep. Both options require hiring delivery staff. 

Walmart pickup

What to do in case a product is out of stock 

When going digital, you should foresee all related risks and challenges. For instance, what should you do if information about availability is incorrect and a personal shopper can’t find all the items in the order?

In this case, industry experts offer two options: substitute the item or refund the price if substitution isn’t possible.

Before placing an order, Walmart asks users to choose items that can be substituted. If the substituted item costs more, Walmart doesn’t charge the difference. If an item cannot be substituted, the app refunds the price. 

How to identify pickup customers

To eliminate fraud, you should provide a safe mechanism for identifying customers. Target and Walmart both have designated pickup areas, and Walmart shop assistants will put orders right in a customer’s vehicle. 

The Walmart app for iPhones and Android mobile devices has a Check In button that a customer can tap when they leave home to notify their personal shopper of their approximate arrival time and to see a map with the fastest route to the store. (If a user declines to share their geolocation, the app shows an I’m Ready button.)

To pick up orders from Target, customers need to show a Mobile Wallet barcode or any identity document. Costco users can pick up orders only after showing a valid state or government-issued photo ID.
Also, after a pickup or delivery has been completed, the customer should leave an e-signature on a shop assistant’s device. 

A branded app for retailers is a crucial part of building customer loyalty. With a rich feature set, special offers for customers, and additional services for added convenience, your retail app can increase your sales and drive more loyal customers to your application. If you decide to create a branded app for your grocery retail business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our software development company will stand by your idea and build a reliable and user-friendly application.

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