Local businesses provide shoppers with mobile apps


More and more of today’s daily tasks involve some sort of mobile technology. Whether it is social networking, emailing or online banking, people are using their cell phones and other mobile devices to get things done on the go.

Local stores like Hy-Vee and The Fridge Wholesale Liquor Store intend to keep pace with the constant changes of today’s technology by launching a mobile application for the Apple and Android markets. Both businesses see the mobile app industry as a tremendous benefit that can give them the opportunity to further satisfy and connect with customers.

2011 was a year of growth for the world of apps, with the Apple and Android markets reaching over half a million apps each. Hy-Vee completed their app launch in December 2011 and this far has received just over 50,000 downloads.

“The idea behind the app is to make sure Hy-Vee’s services are available to people wherever and however they shop,” said Ruth Comer, assistant vice president of media relations at Hy-Vee. “Whether you’re in the store, at home, at work or in the car, you have easy access to Hy-Vee simply through your mobile phone.”

Comer said after listening to customer feedback, Hy-Vee realized that a mobile app would be a convenient way to shop. Their app contains a variety of features including a product and store locator, electronic shopping lists and weekly advertisements. Comer explained that each Hy-Vee store is different so the mobile app adjusts to the particular store the customer chooses.

“The product locator is probably one of the more popular features,” she said. “You enter the name of the product, and it will tell you where the item is located within that specific store, down to which part of the aisle it can be found.”

Another handy feature is the ability to view weekly advertisements for product specials that are exclusive to your chosen store. Comer said customers can move items from those weekly ads into custom-made shopping lists. Customers can create as many shopping lists as needed, whether for everyday items, a special event or different family members wanting different products.

“Just based off feedback, we’re already looking at enhancements for the next update,” Comer said. “We’re discussing the ability to have a shopping list organized by aisle so when you have the list of items you want to buy, the app can automatically sort it according to the chosen store. That way you can head to the grocery store with an aisle by aisle guide made to fit your individual needs.”

The Fridge is also exploring the world of mobile apps, aiming to officially launch their app around the time of spring break. Owner Kevin Neitzel described it as a slimmed-down version of the current website, where customers can gain easier access to information and communication. In the past few weeks, The Fridge has tested their up-and-coming app with peers in the liquor market, and is working on getting rid of any quirks.

“We want to make it simple enough that anyone can use it,” Neitzel said. “We want people who aren’t familiar with liquor to be able to use it just as easily as I would. We have a big college audience so of course we want to keep up with them and figure out the best way to reach them, whether it be through Twitter, the radio they listen to, or a mobile app.”

The app will include features like keg reservations, prices, discounts, the ability to reserve or pre-pay for specialty bottles and will provide customers with an endless amount of recipes associated with The Fridge’s products.

“We have a kiosk here in the store that will create any drink recipe,” he said. “You give it two products and it’ll come up with a drink recipe, or you type something in and it’ll produce all the drink recipes available for that particular product. That’ll definitely be on the app.”

Craig Mouser, one of the creators of the Aggieville app, noted that two years ago, there were only 100,000 apps available in the Apple market and the Android market was very small.

“These days just about everyone has an app,” Mouser said. “You look around and people are always on their phones. Any time someone gets bored they immediately get on their phone. If you have an app — something that you can access from your phone — you’re giving customers the ability to access your information at any given time, whereas with a website or TV ads, people aren’t constantly around them.”

Comer said she believes a growing number of stores are going to be developing apps and trying to increase their functionality and user-friendly features.

“We think retail will continue to move in this direction,” she said. “Retail is all about making services convenient for the customer, and using mobile apps is the way a lot of people have chosen to handle different tasks. Shopping is no exception.”