Woolworths shopping app – A fresh analysis

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd September 2011


Australian Food News recently reported on a new iPhone application introduced by Woolworths for use by its customers. The following presentation was prepared for clients of food industry lawyers FoodLegal, by direct-marketing smartphone guru Natasha Rawlings. Natasha is the CEO of Dealsta, a company that has been developing apps for several industries (although not currently in the supermarket space). Natasha Rawlings has held senior marketing positions in some of the largest direct-marketing companies in the world. In this presentation, Natasha Rawlings reviews the Woolworths app as well as highlighting the recent trends in iPhone / Android applications.

Review by Natasha Rawlings:

With futurists predicting the convergence of the digital and real world in the not-so-distant future, and smartphone (iPhone / Android) adoption in Australia outpacing the US by 5 – 10%, Australian retailers are lagging behind the global pack when it comes to mobile marketing (in fact, most types of digital marketing…!). Not so for Woolworths, who released their new iPhone app in the middle of August.

In April 2011, I listened to a presentation by Julie Coats, Managing Director of Big W. It was very clear that Woolworths Ltd has a vision, and this includes digital. With 35% of Australians owning a smartphone and 38% having already downloaded a shopping app*, Woolies understands that mobile – especially smartphones – are already driving real world sales and ongoing loyalty, and so Woolworths have created an app to do just that.

US and European smartphone trends

As retailers slowly catch on to the fact that smartphones have already become an integral part of the shopping experience, there are many statistics coming out of the USA and Europe which point to exactly what shoppers are looking for in an app.

•    84% of US shoppers use their phones while they shop (we lack statistics here but the markets are similar)
•    70% are comparing prices
•    67% are accessing product reviews
•    61% are looking for specific store information – hours, other locations. (WhiteHorse, July 2011)
•    ‘Sales and Promotions’ are what shoppers want to know about when they are close to a brand’s store or product location (JiWire, Aug 2011)

Google has recently created the futuristic ‘Google Wallet’ (just imagine tipping the contents of your wallet into your phone – credit cards, drivers license, loyalty cards). Their survey found that 95% of smartphone users have looked for location information, with 88% of these users having acted on this information within one day, often contacting or visiting a business. Smartphone users are ready to take action NOW!

Google also found that 79% had used their smartphones for shopping, with 75% having made a store purchase, either at the shop or on their phones (Google, April 2011). These statistics have been reflected in other reports, clearly showing that mobiles have become integral to the shopping experience.

However, one figure that really surprised me – but perhaps Woolies already knew – is that 42% of shoppers use their smartphones in the supermarket (WhiteHorse July 2011).

When you take a close look at the Woolies App, you’ll see they have really understood what shoppers want and expect from an app:

They get a tick for:
•    Providing store information. You can find store locations, opening hours and contact numbers.
•    Showing you specials. Woolies lets you see the regular catalogue specials, categorised so you can easily find what you’re looking for.

They get a bigger tick for:
•    Personalising it. The successful players in mobile’s future will understand personalisation. This app allows you to easily pick the items you are looking for (browse or scan barcode), and then tells you the aisle at your local supermarket you can find them in.
•    Really personalising it. Woolies links to your Everyday Rewards card so it knows what you buy, and what you might appreciate an offer on. Data will be a very big component on future mobile advertising and offers – getting the right deal, to the right people, at the right time.
•    Interactive content.  Woolies has over 800 recipes in which you can add the ingredients straight to your shopping list (these don’t have aisle numbers however – so hopefully that gets fixed soon.)

The feedback in the app store so far has been pretty good. Essentially the same as the Coles app (although I think the Coles app is a little ‘cuter’ and feels less functional), Woolies is receiving a lot more positive feedback soon after its launch. This comment sums up most of the early Coles feedback:  ‘Coles should take some notes from the Woolies app’ as the Coles app evidently crashes quite often, many stores and items are missing and it misses some feature flexibility e.g. you can’t add one ingredient from a recipe, they’re all loaded into your shopping list.

A big minus point: there are no prices

Having no prices is the biggest bugbear in existing feedback, and has been commented on by Christopher Zinn of CHOICE. “The internet can tell you the price of a flight to Timbuktu … one would think it could tell you the price of Vegemite at your local Woolies” he said.

Compare this to the UK where Asda has had a price guarantee app since October 2010 where you can compare the prices of items with other supermarkets. It has been downloaded by more than 250,000 customers since it was launched.

It is hard to know why Coles and Woolies have (as at today) no listing of product prices, especially as they have prices in their online stores. Perhaps it is because different stores have different pricing. I imagine they are thinking this opens up a big can of worms.

Scan2List  poses a challenge

Another smaller player in the market is Scan2List. Its founder Kate Cass built the product after a disastrous shopping trip by her husband. It was launched November 2010 and Kate says that for families looking to keep to budget, having no price is a major failing.

Scan2List enables you to find and make lists for any supermarket, and share and sync lists in real time or by email. Importantly, Scan2List enables you to add notes as well as add a price for all items so you can manage future shopping costs and budgets. Deals from all supermarkets can be seen as well.

The future of supermarket apps

The Woolies app has also not been made for Android, which is currently half of mobile sales. Apparently, development has started and Woolworths are saying it should appear ‘in the next couple of months’.

Where are these apps moving? As nice as it is to have an app to help you shop in-store, it would be good to have the ability to do transactions as well. In the UK, Tesco, Sainsburys and now Asda have transactional mobile apps. Asda.com has just launched a transaction mobile app where customers can register, shop and amend an existing order or delivery slot up until 10pm the day before their delivery is due.

In the future we will see many new shopping apps emerge, but what is becoming clear is that unless they are engaging – by use of content and personalisation – they will fall into disuse within weeks.

Just a word about Dealsta

My company Dealsta is building a shopping app for Australian fashionistas which will find the fashion deals they are looking for, around them or where they are going, in real time. It sounds futuristic but the reality is that this is all possible with technology available now.  It is also what shoppers are wanting to do, right now.

Dealsta is about serving the right deals, to the right shoppers in real time based on their location. It is where online and real world shopping collide to create right-time offers that move people into shops NOW.

To follow all the latest happenings in the mobile shopping space, visit our blog at dealsta.com.au

*Nielsen March 11, AIMIA, Oct 10