The best retail apps for 2018 for tech-savvy shoppers

The best retail apps for 2018 for tech-savvy shoppers

We recently got a new instructor in my spin class, which came as somewhat of a surprise given that our old instructor didn’t let us know she was leaving. If I’m being totally honest, at first I was a bit skeptical of the new teacher. My spin class ladies and I were familiar with our old one. She used to play the same music, always told us to push at the same times, and made the same jokes in every class. We liked her, and we knew what to expect. After just a few weeks with my new teacher, though, I was glad we made a change.

Nothing against our old instructor (I still love you, Lynette!), but the change started pushing us harder and challenging us more. It brought a new dimension to class that helped us engage and get even better results! The lesson here, of course, is that change is good and healthy, and to give new things a chance.

I bring this up because I think it’s especially true of one of my favorite things: retail shopping apps. There’s a wide variety of apps, and they can help shoppers at a range of different kinds of store find deals, learn more about products, and, most importantly, save money. Still, apps change quickly because the exciting world of tech never slows down. So, I’ve broken out the best retail apps for 2018 by category and included my fave of them all. Let’s take a look.

The Best Retail Apps 2018: Store Branded

Let’s start our list of best retail apps for 2018 with some of the biggest and most prominent: the branded variety. These are apps created directly by retailers. While some of the details may vary, they generally make your shopping experience more direct and comprehensive, whether that’s through letting you buy online via the app or by sending you push notifications about the latest deals and specials in their brick-and-mortar stores. Here are some of the ones I’m using the most in 2018:

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Amazon is a huge deal, let’s face it. It has an enormous catalog of products, and the app is technologically advanced and user-friendly. The search function is so easy to use that—pro tip—you can even search for products using just an image. Not only can you easily shop the world’s biggest online retailer, with this app you can also scan credit cards and gift cards. Plus, when a package arrives on your doorstep, you can scan the barcode on the mailing label to verify what’s inside—an added bonus at holidays and gift-giving times. Of all the branded apps on our list, this is easily the one I use the most.

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Apple Store:

I LOVE the Apple Store. In fact, I don’t know how many trips to the mall for clothes have been interrupted by my lingering over new devices. I also love how, whenever I have a problem with my tablet or computer, I can always get help from the Genius Bar. The Apple Store app makes that all the better by allowing me to make reservations right from my phone! I mean, I can use it to sign up for one-on-one help, workshops, and events. I also use it quite a bit to research and purchase the latest Apple products.

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What elevates the Nordstrom in-store app among my best retail apps for 2018 is the way it does all of the shopping basics so well. You browse their offerings by department or brand, and the app has a fun section that features the company’s editorial and social media content. The app also does a great job of sending push notifications about big sales, which makes it so you don’t miss out. And, there’s a version for the company’s savings brand, Nordstrom Rack. Overall, this is a well-designed app, artsy and eye-catching, exactly the helper I need when out looking for a dress for my cousin’s wedding or shoes for a hot date with my man.

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Best Buy:

For many years, one of the best ways to keep up with the latest tech trends has been through the Best Buy app, which lets you quickly and easily shop for thousands of electronics and accessories. This isn’t going to change in 2018. Like many of the other apps in this section, you can use it to order online for pickup at your local store. It’s also one of those super cool apps that lets you scan barcodes and get more info on products when you’re in the store. Keeping up with technology can be hard—even when you love it as much as I do—but apps like this make it easier.

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Target’s app has many features that simplify your shopping trips, which, if you’re anything like me, tend to happen quite often. These include notifications about deals, a copy of the store’s weekly flyer, and even maps of where to find your favorite products once you’re physically inside the store. Target also recently integrated its old Cartwheel savings app into its main store app, making it really easy to earn rewards for shopping at Target—especially if you’re also using one of the multi-store rewards and savings shopping apps that you’ll find in the next section.

The Best Retail Apps 2018: Getting Rewards and Savings

The second category of best retail apps for 2018 is the rewards and savings variety. These are third-party apps designed to help you net savings at a TON of different stores, including at some that also offer their own branded apps. There are a couple of different ways rewards and savings apps tend to work, but the end goal of each is the same: to save you money on the products that you buy. I obviously have spin class on the brain today, but think of it this way: interval riding and endurance riding are two different classes. Intervals involve breaks and then intensity, while endurance is a steady pace, but the end goal of both is for you to burn calories and get fit! Rewards and savings apps do the same thing for your budget. Here are my favorites for 2018:

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If I had to pick one overall best retail app of 2018, it would definitely be Shopkick. Not only does it help me enhance the amount of savings I’m able to collect, it also makes shopping a lot more fun. How Shopkick works is that it gives you points, called kicks, for the things you already do while you’re out shopping: think walking into stores, scanning barcodes to get more info on products, and, of course, making purchases. And, it works on everything from tech to groceries. I’ve even gotten the other ladies from spin class using it—and the best part is that Shopkick has a really engaging Facebook page where I can connect with other shoppers! Oh, and another great thing is that you can use it in tandem with the branded apps mentioned here. For example, you can buy something online at one store, and then collect points for the purchase via Shopkick. So yes, while change is good, something as effective and versatile as Shopkick stays the best from year to year!

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Checkout 51:

Checkout 51 can sometimes feel a bit limited compared to an uber versatile app like Shopkick because it focuses almost exclusively on helping you get paid for your grocery shopping. The cashback offers change weekly on Thursday mornings, so waking up to see what deals are available can easily become part of your shopping routine. Then, when you go grocery shopping, if you purchase any eligible items, just snap a quick picture of the receipt to accumulate money back. Once you reach $20 in savings, Checkout 51 will mail you a check.

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SavingStar is what’s known as a digital coupon app, and how it works is that it pays users to shop at grocery and drugstores, or really anywhere else you get all the vital things you put in your fridge, medicine cabinet, or pantry. More than 60,000 stores are part of SavingStar, and they represent more than 100 retail chains. It’s generally free to use but beware: If an account is inactive for 180 straight days, SavingStar charges a $3.99 fee. To take advantage of SavingStar, users either link their existing store loyalty cards to the app or submit receipts after a purchase. Savings add up until users can eventually cash out through PayPal, Upromise, or in the form of Starbucks, iTunes, or AMC Theater gift codes.

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Like SavingStar, SnipSnap is a mobile coupon app, but this one lets users take pictures of printed coupons that it then transforms into digital, mobile-ready coupons. You can browse online directories and take advantage of coupons friends have “snipped” as well. This one doesn’t exactly pay, though. Instead, users save money as with a traditional coupon. The idea is that coupons can all be easily kept in one digital space, instead of having an overflowing little billfold stuffed with paper.

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As a shopper, I never shy away from a sale. Why would you? One of the simplest truths of shopping is that savings = a good thing! So, when a shopping rewards app tells me I have to accumulate a certain amount of money spent shopping online before I can cash my rewards out, for me that’s not really a problem—I know I’ll hit the mark eventually. But, not everyone shops as much as I do, and for those people, mobile apps like Pennyful let you cash your total out without meeting a minimum threshold. With this app, you just go shopping, make purchases at certain stores offering coupons for through the app, and then accumulate savings in an account that you can later cash in. And, they make it easy and fun to discover new products by dividing their offerings up into categories!

The future is always hard to predict, but I’m confident that the 10 best retail apps for 2018 that made our list today will go the distance. I know I’ll be using them all year long to take my shopping to the next level—and to make it even more fun to be out there in the aisles!

Get one of the best retail apps for 2018. Download Shopkick’s free app today and join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered the rewards of shopping with a free, smartphone app sidekick.

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



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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.