Retailers in the 2017 Mobile 500 add in-store mode and location-aware features to their apps.

Apps are more than just a vehicle for shoppers to make purchases.

For e-retailers that also have stores, apps can provide digital tools to store shoppers. Among retailers in the Internet Retailer 2017 Mobile 500, 275 have an iPhone app and 245 have an Android smartphone app. 84  retailers with apps provide in-store features in their apps, up from 72 retailers in the 2016 Mobile 500.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., for example, has had an in-store mode for its app for two years, and continually makes improvements, says Rafeh Masood, vice president of customer innovation technology at Dick’s, which is No. 122 in the Mobile 500.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods mobile app allows us to augment our store experience by focusing on services and convenience,” Masood says. “The in-store mode is a great tool for our customers while in stores, (offering features) such as easy access to Scorecard (Dick’s loyalty program card), weekly ads, store events, in-store services and in-store maps for some select stores.”

In-store mode works in the following way: The Dick’s app asks for a shopper’s location, and all of Dicks’ stores are geofenced, or have a digital fence around them. This means if a consumer has the app and choses to share her location with it, the retailer will know, via the app, when the shopper is in store. When such a shopper enters a Dick’s store, the retailer will automatically activate in-store mode to make tools, such as a store map, easily accessible in the app.

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Other retailers, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 13) also have an app in-store mode. Wal-Mart’s app also is “location aware” with its geofencing that prompts the app to automatically switch to in-store mode when a shopper enters the store. 120 apps in the 2016 Mobile 500 were location aware compared with 104 retailers’ apps in the 2016 guide.

Wal-Mart’s in-store features include a mobile payment method to use at checkout, product search that tells shoppers where an item is located down to the aisle and exact shelf and bar code scanning to see a product’s price and online availability, says Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of Wal-Mart Services.

Nordstrom Inc. (No. 56) also uses its app as an in-store shopping companion, a Nordstom spokesman says.

“We find that the most popular features for our customers are those that bridge the gap between in-store and online,” he says. “The Nordstrom Android app allows customers to scan tags while in the store to instantly see product availability both online and in that store.” For example, shoppers can see if a different size is available online or in a nearby sotre.

Another popular feature among retailers with apps in the 2017 Mobile 500 is one- or two-click checkout, as 142 retailers had this app feature, compared with 127 retailers in the 2016 guide. One speedy checkout button is Apple Pay, which 51 retailers in the 2017 Mobile 500 offer.

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