Mobile Apps Make Holiday Shopping Easier Than Ever This Season

smartphone in hand with blank screen
It’s fair to say that many Americans practically live on their mobile devices. According to the Pew Internet Research Project, 67% of cellphone owners find themselves checking their phones even when it hasn’t rung or vibrated; 44% have slept with their phones beside their bed to make sure that they don’t miss any messages or updates; and 29% of cell owners describe their devices as “something they can’t imagine living without.” Combined with the fact that consumers spend about 60% of their Internet time on mobile devices in comparison to their desktop or laptops, it’s pretty clear that mobile is the dominant way people access the web nowadays.

With so many consumers tethered to their mobile devices, it’s only natural that many would turn to mobile technology to innovate their holiday shopping experiences. Several apps out there have not only been streamlining the holiday shopping experience, but also helping users earn money back.

“It’s a way to make life easier,” said Bryan Leach, the CEO and founder of mobile shopping app Ibotta. “In recent years you’ve really seen the rise of mobile influence in store sales. Look how often people check their phones. It’s a virtual daily habit. It’s addictive.”

The idea behind Ibotta is to attract mobile users back into physical stores, as opposed to relying exclusively on online deals. It offers consumers a cash-back deal when they make a purchase from the 200 different retail brands working with Ibotta, like Best Buy.

Ibotta is simple. Users unlock rebates on products by searching through various categories. Once all is said and done and the user has purchased the goods, he or she takes a picture of the receipt, and within 48 hours, Ibotta will deposit cash back into the user’s account.

In just two years, the app has helped its users earn more than $15 million back on rebates.

Of course, some consumers aren’t entirely sure what they want. They have no specific product in mind. Some of our loved ones can be pretty hard to shop for, after all. For these users, there’s Shopkick, which has already been downloaded six million times.

Shopick offers a feed of deals and products available in the user’s geographic region, providing info on certain goods that are trending and customizing finds based on the user’s past purchases. Essentially, it’s an in-the-know shopping companion. What’s more, Shopkick users accrue points called “kicks” that they then use to get free gift cards.

“It’s really changed the way I shop,” Scherri Umensetter, a Shopkick user of three years. So far, the app has earned Umensetter three $300 Coach gift cards. Now, she exclusively shops at stores that provide her with kicks.

Once the shopping is done, though, users still need a way to get their gifts to the intended recipients, who might be hundreds of miles away. This is where Slice comes in.

According to its website, “Slice works seamlessly with your email inbox to find and store the e-receipts from the stuff you buy. We’ll track your package from shipment to delivery… and then go further. Are you eligible for a price adjustment on that shirt? Did the toy you bought last year just get recalled for safety issues? We keep an eye out for important information that you need to know about the things you buy and then make it incredibly easy to do something about it.”

The selling point behind Slice isn’t that it organizes the tracking and shipping of goods, but that it also guides users through a post-purchasing experience. For example, say that a product dropped in price after a user purchased it. Slice would then walk the user through the process of requesting a refund to get that better deal.

Holiday shopping can be a stressful experience, but mobile device users have been having an easier time of it thanks to apps like Ibotta, Shopkick, and Slice. If you still have some shopping to do during this crunch time, consider utilizing your smartphone. You might even get a gift card out of it.

FIXD App on Kickstarter Streamlines Car Maintenance

man using car audio stereo systemForget the mechanic or that auto-savvy friend or relative, and even those confusing lights on your dashboard. Soon, your smartphone may be able to tell you what’s wrong with your car.

Apple has CarPlay. Android has Android Auto. Both of these apps, and several others, have already integrate the smartphone into the driving experience of many car owners on the road. But a new gadget/app combo campaigning on kickstarter may go beyond enhancing the driving experience. It will streamline the entire maintenance process in one easy-to-use app.

The app is called FIXD. It connects your phone to your car via a blue tooth sensor plugged into the OBD-II port under your dashboard and accesses diagnostics information through your car’s computer. This is the same information that sets off warning lights on your dashboard. The sensor then sends the information to an easy-to-read display on your phone.

This may seem redundant, but a recent survey revealed that 77% of cars on the road today are behind on repairs and maintenance. Even experienced car owners may have to go digging for the manual when a light they don’t recognize comes on, especially since these signals aren’t always uniform across brands. Sometimes it’s easier just to ignore dashboard lights until they turn into trouble.

The FIXD app aims to streamline that experience. Potential problems like airbag issues and oil levels will be listed on the app, paired with information explaining the possible consequences of each issue and a quote for how much drivers may need to pay to have them repaired.

FIXD will also keep track of any maintenance you receive. You can use the app to export the records in a neat and timely fashion at any time, which is especially useful if you need to trade or sell your vehicle. The app can even keep tabs on multiple vehicles at the same time.

If the Kickstarter performs well, FIXD is set to release for Android systems in the fall and Apple systems in the spring.

New Study Indicates That Consumers Will Avoid Businesses That Provide Inefficient Mobile Apps

According to a new study by AppDynamics and the Institute of Management Studies (IMS), the majority of people will delete an application if it operates too slowly.

The study findings are key for understanding just how much speed and efficiency matters when it comes to consumers engaging with apps on a routine basis. The researchers found that 86% respondents had already deleted an app because of slow or inefficient performance, and 33% said that, if their bank’s mobile app performed poorly, they would switch banks rather than deal with an alternate way of doing their banking.

The study was conducted out of both the U.K. and the U.S., and involved about 2,000 participants. The study is large enough that its findings can be extrapolated as representative of typical user interactions with smartphones.

Although these findings might seem worrisome for companies that tend to struggle with app speeds, there were indications that organizations with great mobile apps tended to benefit from it. About 30% of people surveyed said they would spend more money on a company that provided a great app.

This sends a fairly clear message to companies looking to make a profit through mobile conversion: investing in a great app can help ensure the sale. Considering that already, 28% of mobile users access the internet with a mobile device more frequently than they do with a desktop, this factor will only become more important as a shift to increasingly mobile-based internet usage continues. Mary Meeker’s 2014 announcement of annual internet trends echoes this — Meeker and her team have shown that, while the total number of internet users worldwide is growing at a rate of less than 10% annually, the number of smartphone users is still growing by about 20% annually.

“With Forrester analysts projecting U.S. mobile commerce sales alone to top $100 billion in 2014, our study underlines the importance of well performing apps,” said Tom Levey of AppDynamics.