What You Need To Know about Grocery App Development

With data showing that 80 percent of shoppers use their smartphones while shopping, it’s not surprising that mobile app developers have been targeting this segment of the market. Let’s say you’re going to develop an app for groceries. Where do you start? To find the most successful approach, you need to understand how people use mobile technology while shopping.

What drives and motivates grocery shopping app users

Nancy M. Childs PhD, a professor of food marketing, outlines three primary motivations of grocery shopping app users in her book "The Digital Grocery Commerce: Insights for Enhancing Consumer Connection with Grocery Shopping Apps":

1) Consumer personalization. An app should respond to a user’s personal requirements and cater to their needs.

2) Convenience. An app should be easy to use and intuitive so that a user doesn’t end up wasting their time.

3) Economic advantages. An app should offer ways for a user to save money, such as coupons or loyalty programs.

The most popular online grocery shopping services on the market, such as AnyList and Grocery IQ take these motivations into consideration. For example, AnyList allows users to create multiple custom shopping lists, use Siri to add items to a list by voice, and find and use coupons.

This article is dedicated to types of grocery apps that can be built by taking advantage of a shopping list and other valuable features.


[The AnyList app]

What types of apps help businesses bring home the bacon

A shopping list may be a standalone application or an additional feature of grocery delivery, loyalty, or recipe book apps. It’s crucial for a business to decide on a specialization to effectively implement the necessary app features before grocery mobile app development. Let’s view each type of grocery app in more detail.

Grocery delivery solutions

There’s growing demand for online grocery delivery. The grocery industry is huge by all measures and is constantly developing. Grocery delivery systems and grocery startups making on-demand delivery arrangement have been regularly popping up, and some of them have managed to become tremendously successful. 

Grocery providers Instacart, which works in 40 US states, and Shipt, which operates in more than 257 cities, are two of the industry leaders. Amazon recently announced free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods products for Prime customers in several US cities and its intention to expand this business shortly. Walmart Grocery Delivery is now available at over 800 stores, and Walmart plans to add another 800 in 2019.

The Instacart platform is a good example of marketplace solutions that make it easy for users to create grocery shopping lists, place an order from Whole Foods, Costco, and Safeway, and get delivery within an hour. Instacart is fast, cheap, and allows users to combine items from all three stores in one order.

Instacart is a combination of on-demand, sharing, subscription, and aggregator models, as well as an e-commerce platform. The whole process of ordering groceries via Instacart can be briefly described as follows:

  1. A customer creates a list of groceries and pays Instacart.

  2. A personal shopper gets this order and collects the groceries.

  3. The shopper pays the bill via an Instacart prepaid debit card.

  4. The shopper delivers these products to the customer.

You can read more about creating a grocery delivery service like Instacart in our blog post on how much it costs to create an on-demand delivery app.

Grocery loyalty apps

Loyalty programs are firmly established as one of the most effective methods to increase revenue and ensure customer loyalty. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, more than 35,500 of 50,000 surveyed American and European consumers who are members of loyalty programs stated that membership is fundamental to their relationship with brands.

Nowadays, most retailers build a mobile app for their loyalty program. For instance, Starbucks launched My Starbucks Rewards by means of the Starbucks app. Customers have to order or pay via the Starbucks app to earn loyalty points (stars). Centralizing customer transactions is a priceless source of information on customer preferences and behavior, empowering a business to offer more relevant campaigns and communication with consumers.

Moe’s Southwest Grill, a chain of restaurants, offers an extensive rewards program with many levels of earning potential through the Moe Rewards app. Getting to the next level grants a user greater earning potential. Additionally, the app allows users to earn rewards by referring friends to the program. Even though this app is criticized for being difficult to use and constantly crashing, the loyalty program idea behind the poor implementation is excellent.

A shopping list feature can be part of a grocery loyalty app, enabling users to shop conveniently along with enjoying benefits of the loyalty program.

Apps with built-in recipe books

AnyList and Yummly are only two examples of a very popular type of grocery list app that combines a recipe book with standard grocery app functionality. When AnyList users add recipes, each ingredient is automatically added to their grocery list. BigOven provides over 350,000 recipes, featured collections, and menus curated by season, holiday, course, lifestyle, diet, and more.

Recipe manager Paprika , available for iPhones and Android devices, has a built-in browser that helps users find recipes they like on the web and import them to their personal recipe list. Paprika stores recipes and users can add all ingredients for a recipe to a grocery list, then remove the ones they already have.


[The Yammly app]

Sometimes, a grocery shopping list app should just be a shopping list and nothing more, and there are such apps on the market. For example, all that Buy Me a Pie! and Bring! Grocery Shopping List do is help users create a shopping list and keep it in sync with their family and friends. These apps are quite successful, as it turns out.


[The Bring! Grocery Shopping List]

Grocery aggregators

Grocery aggregators are applications showing a list of nearby grocery stores to a user. Also, most applications of this type allow users to watch store's item list. Basket goes further and allows users to compare prices for a certain product in local supermarkets. 

What to stuff your grocery list app with

Taking a deeper look into how to make online applications for groceries successful, we came up with a list of features that are the most desirable ones. The second list we provide contains features that you need to implement carefully as they may not be popular with all users (based on Google Play and App Store reviews).

Seven most desired features in grocery shopping list apps

1. Shopping list. This is the core feature of a grocery shopping list app. In order to make this feature more convenient, it’s a good idea to add an in-app dictionary. All items that a user enters into the app can be added to the dictionary so the app can autocomplete them next time. Grocery list apps featuring built-in dictionaries allow users to quickly add items to their lists. Users can also use saved shopping lists and view frequently bought items. This significantly simplifies shopping for those who tend to purchase the same products. The best apps also include barcode scanners, email sharing, and online list updating. Lists can be shared with a user’s family members, and if somebody edits the list, others are notified. Mealime has a sophisticated built-in grocery list feature. It allows users to make and optimize easy-to-understand grocery lists based on meal plans. When a user makes a new meal plan, a grocery list of all the necessary products for the week is automatically created.

2. Ability to track spending. Users want to have an overview of their spending in their favorite supermarket combined with infographics that indicate the main areas of spending and recommend a strategy for cutting down expenditures. Interestingly, even though the ability to track spending is listed among one of the most desirable features, top mobile food shopping apps in the App Store and Google Play Store tend to almost completely ignore this feature. This tendency doesn’t apply to Grocery IQ, however. This app allows users to stay within their budgets by informing about the expected cost of items on a list. But to enjoy this benefit, a user has to manually enter prices into the app.

3. Grocery shopping list reminders. A grocery shopping app can remind users to buy a standard list of groceries that they’re most likely to run out of by the end of the week (such as milk, bread, and eggs). For example, an app called Daily Bread integrates with a reminders app and lets users know when they’re about to run out of groceries.

4. Coupons and loyalty programs. Grocery coupons come in different forms, both digital and paper, representing different discount programs and seasonal, weekly, and daily sales. Online grocering services that generate or find relevant coupons based on shopping history, current shopping lists, or a user’s location can help with family budgeting. Some apps like Grocery IQ work with coupons.com. When users add something, the app alerts them if there are coupons available to print or load to their grocery store loyalty card. Flipp allows shoppers to browse, filter, and find bargains based on grocery essentials by matching local deals with coupons from a user’s favorite brands.


[The Flipp app]

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 customized coupons based on a current shopping list. The Grocery IQ and SavingStar apps have been praised for helping users optimize their use of coupons and keep up with ever-changing sales and discounts. 

5. Barcode scanning and aisle locations. Barcode scanners help users find out as much as possible about products quickly. To scan their groceries, users aim their phone camera at the barcode of an item and see the price on their screen. They can then add the item to an electronic shopping basket. A barcode scanner can also provide information about nutritional value and dietary recommendations. For example, the ShopWell app with a barcode scanner function helps users eat healthier and achieve their nutrition goals. It’s useful for managing weight and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and celiac disease. ShopWell can also help users maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet. The barcode scanner in the Out of Milk app lets users quickly create shopping lists. A shopper can just launch Out of Milk and scan a barcode to add an item to their shopping list. Showing aisle locations for groceries is also a good way to provide convenience for users. Adding a store map will enable customers to get more detailed information on a store.


[The ShopWell app]

6. Prompt and easy sharing. This feature is crucial to make shopping easy for users. A person who creates a grocery list can share it with another person who’s in the store. Users should be able to share lists in one tap.

7. Gamification. Even though gamification is widely adopted by educational, health, and fitness apps, it hasn’t been fully mastered by grocery apps yet. However, adding a gamification component might make grocery store apps more attractive for users. This can be going on a treasure hunt for coupons, setting a shopping budget with automatic withdrawing of unspent money from a user’s bank account to a specific savings goal, or something else.

Three features of a grocery shopping list app that you should be careful with

1. Generic geolocation notifications. Some users of grocery list apps have privacy concerns related to geolocation and real-time delivery tracking. Research released by Blis, a global leader in location data technology, shows that four in ten American consumers don’t want to share their location data, even in exchange for something valuable like a mobile coupon or digital offer. On the other hand, 10 percent of respondents don’t mind sharing their location data for free. Two-thirds of consumers want to have their location tracked, either constantly or by means of opt-in prompts. Despite the controversy, geolocation technology is rapidly developing, with iBeacon technology increasingly used to facilitate shopping.

Currently, consumers have access to customized user experiences by means of iBeacon marketing. Businesses use this technology to offer discounts, tips, and more. For instance, Starbucks uses iBeacon technology in its mobile app to ensure payments, encourage customers to come by for a coffee, and provide notifications. Retail brands, being early adopters of this technology, keep installing beacons in their physical locations. For example, the drugstore chain Rite Aid uses beacons in over 4,500 US stores. iBeacon technology makes shopping easier and more convenient, helping users save time and money. Grocery Shopping List Ease reminds users of list items in-store by using inMarket’s iBeacon technology.

2. 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 the problem. It’s also important to simplify the sign-up process for shoppers who do want to use a full-featured app. In addition, ensuring easy login for returning users is important. So choose a full-stack service provider carefully.

3. Glut of features. There seems to be a growing tendency toward simplification of features. Users don’t appreciate being snowed under with notifications and constantly haunted by sidebar ads offering products they’ve searched for or bought before. 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 app is the best solution. This will help you focus on only essential features.

Types of data input for shopping list apps

The ability to create a shopping list is often the core feature of a grocery app. There are three ways of creating shopping lists:

Manual input (plus autosuggestion). This involves entering information by hand into the phone. Autosuggestion displays suggestions or search predictions, saving a user from extended typing.

Barcode scanning. A barcode scanner collects information on an item by scanning a barcode, which is commonly on the back of the item. Using a smartphone, a scanner app reads the barcode image and pulls up information including product name and price. This information is stored in a database. Barcode scanning helps a user add an item to their list with no need for manual input.

A combination of input methods. The use of several input methods is preferable for a grocery app, as it makes things easier for the user. For example, there can be an option to manually enter a barcode and save it for further recognition in case it isn’t in the database.

If you decide to develop a grocery shopping app, you should remember why users use them:

  • To cut down on impulse buys and plan their family budgets more efficiently

  • To minimize their time at the store while getting everything they need

  • To find bargains, new coupons, and discount programs at their favorite grocery stores

A grocery shopping app that combines this functionality with a user-friendly interface has a good chance of competing with other grocery shopping apps. Our software development company will stand by your idea and build a reliable and user-friendly app. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.  

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