Frugal shoppers know it’s all about finding the best price. Traditionally, online retailers have provided the greatest discounts to consumers, thanks, in part, to having less overhead and avoiding sales taxes. But brick-and-mortar stores are fighting back, using the power of apps to woo people back to their aisles. In fact, nearly 80 percent of mobile shoppers are already using an application to find a store, and 63 percent are using apps to check prices online while shopping, according to Nielsen.
In addition to applications for specific stores, there is an arsenal of free apps at consumers’ disposal to help them quickly and easily find the best product for the best price. From helping shoppers take advantage of price-match guarantees to offering digital coupons and rewards, apps are a budget shopper’s best friend. Here are seven app-based strategies that can save you money at your favorite stores.
The Amazon Mobile app is perfect for “showroomers” — people who use physical stores as showrooms to test new products before ordering them cheaper from online retailers. The app lets you scan or snap a photo of the item you’re looking to buy, and checks the price of that item on Amazon for easy comparison. But you need not go online to get the best price anymore.
Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy now offer price matching. So if you find a cheaper price on Amazon through the Web retailer’s app, these big-box stores will match Amazon’s price and let you walk out of the door paying what you would have on Amazon.
Navigating the Amazon app is simple enough; a search bar lines the top, along with all the price-matching functions. Within the search bar sits a bar-code button that launches directly into the bar-code scanner. Once you’ve found the item you need cheaper on Amazon, show your phone to the cashier and ask him or her match the price. However, be careful you’re not trying to price match to a third-party vendor; it must be an Amazon deal to be effective at Target.
Door-busters aren’t just for Sunday circulars anymore. Target has added door-busting sales and discounts to its mobile app. With the Target for iOS and Android apps, you can browse weekly ads and access daily deals, clearance products and coupons for use in your local store. The coupon section presents a bar code at the top of the screen, above a list of items for which the coupon can be used, such as 20-percent off a men's swimsuit. Once you’ve brought the items to the register, present your phone to the cashier to scan and apply your discount.
When you walk into a Wal-Mart store with your iPhone, the app knows to put you into “Store Mode.” That automatically gives you access to store-specific rollback deals, new in-store items and your store’s local ad, all of which can be used to save you money. The app’s bar-code scanner also can check prices.
Just because a store’s app offers you a deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best deal possible in your geographical location. Apps such as ShopSavvy — currently available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone — can help. This app is like a search engine for products; it provides a price comparison at several local and online retailers, including ones you might not expect would carry the product you’re hoping to buy. For example, we didn’t realize that our local Sears carries the Wii remote, and offers it at a far cheaper price than any other local retailer.
To get started, simply type your product into the search box, snap a picture of the product’s box or scan a bar code to initiate the search. ShopSavvy will scan its constantly updating database of more than 40,000 major physical and online retailers to tell you which outlet has the product for the lowest possible price.
Shopkick is a unique reward system that, if diligently used, could put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket. Users earn “kicks,” rewards points that can be redeemed for merchandise and store gift cards by performing certain tasks at local retailers. There are many different ways to earn kicks; you’ll get kicks just for walking in the door to a store, scanning certain featured in-store items from sponsors (Tom’s toothpaste or Huggies diapers, for example) or spending a certain amount of money with a linked credit card.
You can also use the Shopkick iOS or Android application to view featured store content before you arrive. The more content you view, the more points you’ll unlock, though you’ll need to visit that store within seven days to achieve those points. Once you’ve amassed enough kicks (rewards tiers start at 500 kicks), you can exchange points for merchandise or gift cards at retailers including Best Buy, Lowe’s, Papa John’s, Target and Redbox.
Smartphone-based alternatives to the traditional coupon-clipping bring coupons to your mobile device when you need them. For iOS and Android, Coupon Sherpa gives users access to the latest store coupons for multiple local and online retailers. For example, on a recent excursion to Kohl’s, Coupon Sherpa saved us 15 percent off with a mobile coupon. Coupons are available for several major retailers and restaurants; to redeem a deal, you simply show the cashier your phone.
Drug stores, grocery stores, electronics retailers, home improvement stores; all sorts of stores offer their own rewards programs for loyal shoppers. The CardStar app — available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry — lets you ditch all those pieces of plastic attached to your key ring.
Once you’ve taken the time to load all your cards into the app (a fairly easy, straightforward process), simply launch the application when you’re at one of these locations, click on the appropriate card and present the bar code to be scanned. We tested this service out at our local library, and successfully checked out a few books and movies using CardStar.
Google Wallet and Apple Passbook can also manage rewards cards, though Wallet is only available on a limited number of devices, and Passbook only integrates with programs that have built Passbook support into their iOS app.