The apps of web-only retailers, Groupon and Fanatics are much loved by mobile shoppers, while the apps of chain merchants Costco, Sears and Home Depot need some work, Pivotal Labs says. But Wal-Mart shows even old-school retailers can do mobile right.

61% of U.S. consumers have a better opinion of brands that offer a compelling mobile experience than brands that do not, and 40% will turn to a retailer’s competitor based on a bad mobile experience, according to a recent study by research and marketing firm Latitude. Further, 58% of smartphone owners use their devices for store-related shoppingand are 14% more likely than non-smartphone shoppers to convert in-store, according to recent data from research and consulting giant Deloitte.

“Mobile apps are no longer just purchasing platforms for retailers,” says Amar Varma, general manager of mobile at Pivotal Labs, which designs, develops and manages software and apps for clients including Facebook, Best Buy Co., Fanatics Inc.,, Kay Jewelers, Shopzilla and Weight Watchers International Inc. “Apps today play a vital role in creating rich, personalized or in-store customer experiences. We are beginning to see that effective mobile retail solutions boost business and strengthen a retailer’s brand, while retailers with less effective mobile strategies are putting both their business and brands at risk.”

In the newly released Second Annual Pivotal Labs U.S. Retail Apps Report, the vendor focuses on the top 25 retailers headquartered in the U.S. that offer smartphone apps for iOS and Android, as ranked by the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500. For each retailer, Pivotal analyzed the 50 most recent app store customer comments, grouping feedback into three buckets: performance, features and design.

The top iPhone (iOS) apps based on average star rating of at least 3.0 stars and percentage of favorable ratings in Apple Inc.’s App Store belong to Fanatics Inc. (5.0 stars, 99.1%), Inc. (4.5 stars, 98.3%), Groupon (4.5 stars, 95.1%), Joss & Main (4.5 stars, 92.9%), Home Depot Pro App (4.5 stars, 91.4%), Walgreen Co. (4.5 stars, 88%), and (4.5 stars, 87.6%).

The lowest-rated iPhone apps based on average star rating fewer than 3.0 stars and percentage of negative ratings in the App Store belong to Hulu Plus (2.0 stars, 75.2%), Costco Wholesale Corp. (2.0 stars, 71.9%), Cartwheel by Target Corp. (2.5 stars, 63.7%), The Home Depot Inc. (2.5 stars, 54.5%), and Sears Holdings Corp. (2.5 stars, 49.6%).


72% of these iPhone retail apps have negative feedback regarding performance, 51% have negative feedback regarding features, and 13% have negative feedback regarding design, the Pivotal Labs reports finds.

The top Android retail smartphone apps based on average star rating of at least 3.0 stars and percentage of favorable ratings in the Google Play store belong to Fanatics (4.8 stars, 99.3%), Groupon (4.6 stars, 96.7%), (4.5 stars, 94.4%), (4.4 stars, 93.1%), (4.3 stars, 91.2%), Hollister So Cal Style (4.3 stars, 91.2%), Walgreens (4.3 stars, 88.8%), Best Buy Co. Inc. (4.2 stars, 90.7%), HSN Inc. (4.2 stars, 88.2%), Office Depot Inc. (4.2 stars, 86.7%), and Victoria’s Secret Direct (4.1 stars, 84.5%).

None of the top 25 mobile retailers have Android apps with an average rating below 3.0 stars.

Retailers that are succeeding in today’s omnichannel market are those that have fully leveraged mobile to make their products more relevant to their customers, Pivotal Labs concludes in its report.

“Newer companies have a competitive advantage, as they can incorporate modern software in their initial go-to-market strategy; but where does this leave traditional companies?” Pivotal Labs asks. “Consider Wal-Mart: The retailer celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 and has one of the highest rated iOS apps in this report. This shows the importance of an agile mobile strategy that isn’t bound by traditional ways of doing business.”


Pivotal Labs conducted research for the U.S. Retail Apps Report from Dec. 25, 2013, through Jan. 15, 2014. Click here for more information on the top mobile retailers from the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500.

Follow Bill Siwicki, managing editor, mobile commerce, at Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce.