The 10 best in-store mobile apps for shoppers in 2018

The 10 best in-store mobile apps for shoppers in 2018

When I got my first iPhone, maybe eight years ago, I went a bit crazy for apps. I started with the ones for all my many social media networks and, of course, games. All. The. Games. Then, I discovered the magical world of shopping apps.

There were apps for online shopping, apps for coupons and savings, apps for learning about new products, in-store mobile apps to make shopping at my favorite retailers a dream—you name it. I think at my peak, I had five pages of apps, maybe six. I had so many apps that I actually had to start deleting my videos and photos to make room for them all. Oh, the horror.

These days, I’ve trimmed down the number of apps on my current iPhone, often relying on responsive websites when I go shopping to see a store’s hours, or what’s on sale, or even to log in to certain rewards programs. I have, of course, kept the best of the best in-store mobile apps on my phone. But, for the sake of both memory space and my sanity, I’ve let many, many apps go that just don’t give me a bang for their screenspace buck.

Here is my personal list of the 10 best in-store mobile apps for shoppers in 2018. Whether you’re already an avid retail shopping app-aholic like me or you’re new to the game, there’s a lot of rewards out there to be earned for the shopping you already do for your family every day—you just need to know which mobile shopping apps are really the rewards crème de la crème!

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The Best In-Store Mobile Apps for Drug and Grocery Stores

I don’t know about you, but the stores I find myself in the most are the ones that sell the necessities: medicine, milk, lunch meat, snack foods, and Ben and Jerry’s (my personal favorite guilty pleasure). I’m talking about drug stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores.

Of the three categories on our list today, this one is the biggest. I know everyone has their personal favorites when it comes to which stores you frequent, so I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

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I personally love the 7-Eleven app. It does a great job sending me coupons for things I actually want, like buy-one-get-one-free mini juice boxes that I can pick up quickly in the morning to fit into the kids’ lunches. Other features of this app include a nifty store locator that I find especially helpful when I’m traveling and a list of current in-store deals you’ll only find on the app.

How you save: Coupons and lists of exclusive in-store deals.

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CVS Caremark:

If you’ve ever raise a child, you know one thing you can’t avoid is germs. Sick happen. There are runny noses, allergies, little scrapes—you name it, kids will get it. I know when my kids were small, I found myself running back and forth to the CVS pharmacy across the street from our house constantly. I wish I would have had this app way back when. It allows you to put in for prescription refills by just entering your DOB and following the screen prompts. You can also use it to set shopping reminders and make lists of other things you need while you’re picking up your meds.

How you save: On time. Time is money, and you’ll save tons of it by using this efficient and easy prescription refill app.

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This app is similar to the CVS Caremark option, except that it caters to shoppers at Walgreens. With this app you can get prescription refills started in mere seconds just by scanning barcodes. And, you can manage your medications with a feature called Pill Reminder. I may be a long-time CVS shopper myself, but one thing I especially love about this Walgreens app is the photo section. You can actually use it to send in photos and have them printed for same day pickup! The days of those little 24-hour photo booths are long gone, that’s for sure. Plus, this app lets you clip coupons!

How you save: You can save all kinds of time with the prescription app. You can also clip coupons to get discounts on things like makeup, medicine, toothpaste, or anything else Walgreens sells.

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Now we get to some of my favorites on my list of the best in-store mobile apps: the ones that help you get paid for shopping for groceries. Walmart has everything. I mean, that’s basically what they’re known for, aside from their low prices. Their app also strives to do it all. You can use it to pay without taking out your wallet, to see the store’s weekly advertisement, to put in for prescription refills, to order online in advance for easy pickup at your local store, and, I think most importantly, to learn about new offers and deals via app notifications.

How you save: This app sends notifications about new deals and savings directly to the home screen of your phone, ensuring you don’t miss out on the best prices on your next trip to Walmart.

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I must admit, as an early adopter, I jumped on the Cartwheel train early; I absolutely loved that version of Target’s in-store mobile app that gave me access to unique offers. That’s why I’m thrilled that they’ve now rolled Cartwheel into the main Target app. It’s similar to Walmart, in that you can use it to get notified about new deals, look at the weekly store ad, and reserve items for in-store pickup. The Target app has some additional functionality as well, though, like the inclusion of the Cartwheel program, interactive store maps, and access to #TargetStyle, where you can browse guest-submitted looks and see what other shoppers just like you have recently purchased.

How you save: Through the Cartwheel savings program and with notifications to all of the store’s most recent deals. You can also save time by using the app’s built-in barcode scanner to learn more about prices and with the app’s interactive map, which makes it easy to find the groceries and household goods you came in for.

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The Best In-Store Mobile Apps for the Finer Things in Life

I love groceries; you literally have to have them. But you know what I love much more? The finer things in life, like stylish clothes and modern electronics—and I suspect you may feel the same way that I do.

Did you know that there are in-store mobile apps that you can use while perusing racks and shelves filled with all the finer things in life? No? Well, allow me to blow your mind and tell you about two of my all-time favorites!

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What makes the Nordstrom in-store app among my all time favorites is the way it does all of the shopping app basics so well. Can you browse products by department or brand? Oh yeah, super easily. Are all the functions listed in an easy-to-use bar at the bottom of the app at all times? You bet they are. Is there also a fun style section that features the company’s editorial and social media content? Sure is. Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t as basic as the others, but it’s still worth including. This is a well-designed app, artsy and eye-catching, exactly the kind of sidekick I need when out looking for a dress for my cousin’s wedding or shoes for New Year’s with my man.

How you save: This app provides notifications on big sales so you don’t miss out. You can also download a version for the company’s savings brand Nordstrom Rack, which makes it easy to find locations for that store.

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My Best Buy:

When my husband’s indulging, it’s generally in new tech, things like tablets and phones and home theater equipment. The My Best Buy mobile app is a great way to save money in store on these purchases. It’s especially handy if your family often upgrades phones as it pays out a $25 Best Buy credit every time you purchase and activate a new one. It’s also good if your kids (or your husband) buy a lot of video games. The app and the associated program gives you access to the My Best Buy Gamers Club, which entitles you to 20% off new video games as well as 10% off used copies. Finally, as with most of the other retailer apps on our list, using this one will get you emails and notifications about all the latest and greatest in-store deals.

How you save: With a $25 Best Buy credit every time you buy and activate a new phone, as well as with discounts on video games and notifications about the latest deals storewide.

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The Best In-Store Mobile Apps You Can Use at Multiple Stores

I like to think of this last bunch of apps as my secret weapon. My sense is that not as many people know about these as they do the retailer-branded apps, which is a shame because these shopping rewards apps are my absolute very favorites. How they work is pretty simple: they award points or savings that you can redeem for cash or gift cards. Essentially, they’re apps that pay you money to shop.

Here are my favorites:

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Receipt Hog:

Like all my favorite shopping rewards apps, you can use Receipt Hog when you go out shopping to a number of different stores. All you have to do is take a photo of your receipt after making a purchase. It could be for groceries, new clothes, makeup, you name it. Also, like all the best free shopping apps that pay, this one makes earning rewards fun. After you take a picture of your receipts, you get to take a paid survey or play a cool little slot machine game for prizes or coins. These are then traded in for cash or Amazon gift cards. Fun and easy!

How you save: You simply take pictures of your receipts after buying eligible products and, once you earn a number of points that equates to $5, you can get paid out via Paypal or with an Amazon gift card.

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Checkout 51:

Checkout 51 is similar to Receipt Hog. It’s a receipt-based savings app that lets you accumulate savings and then trade them in to get cash back. The difference is that this one has a heavy focus on groceries. It also does this cool thing where it posts all the eligible deals for the week at midnight on Thursdays so you know exactly when and where to find them.

How you save: Again, you take pictures of your receipts after buying eligible products. With Checkout 51, however, you must first earn $20 in savings before you can cash out.

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Shopkick is far and away the most versatile and rewarding app on my list of the best in-store mobile apps for 2018. You can use it in tandem with any of the other apps on this list, which means you can double, triple, or quadruple your savings and rewards. The way Shopkick works is that you get points, called kicks, for walking into stores, scanning the barcodes of certain products, and, of course, for making purchases (it works for online purchases too!). Then you can trade those points in for gift cards at all your favorite stores. What I especially love about Shopkick is that it turns all my shopping trips into a fun scavenger hunt for points. I’ve found myself excitedly going through stores, looking for the products to scan that would give me the most points. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and you can cash out whenever you’d like!

How you save: You get paid for all the shopping activities that you do already. It really is that simple—and that amazing.

Yes, 2018 is upon us and mobile apps have continued to evolve. As I mentioned at the start, responsive web design is more common now and that means you don’t need dozens of shopping apps — you just need the best ones. And you need to know which ones you can use in tandem with each other.

I love, love, love all the retailer-branded shopping apps above, but what I love even more is multiplying my savings by pairing store apps with shopping rewards programs like Shopkick. Some points are good, more points are better, but making sure you have Shopkick downloaded to your phone is best!

Get one of the best in-store mobile apps for 2018—free! Download Shopkick’s app today and join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered the rewards of shopping with a smartphone sidekick.

And, if you love social media as much as you love your smartphone apps, join Shopkick on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily fun and inspiration.



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!


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Dima Volovik

EVP of Product and Engineering

Dima Volovik is the EVP of Product and Engineering at Trax Retail — Shopkick.

Dima Volovik is the accomplished product and engineering leader who led teams to deliver innovative and commercially successful e-commerce products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions for Amazon, Comcast, Fandango, and Universal Music. Before joining Trax, Dima was the Director at Amazon, where he led product development and Engineering for Amazon Appstore and Amazon Prime Video, CTO at Fandango, and Paciolan, head of technology at Golf Channel/Golf Now, and Global VP of Direct to Consumer Technology at Universal Music Group. Dima’s expertise includes developing consumer products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions.

Dima grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he received his MS in Electrical Engineering from Azerbaijan Oil Academy, and he currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.