Blog Series

The apps have it – retailers pursue mobile innovation

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is offering a TikTok-like product discovery feature in its app.

Retailers are leveraging mobile apps to enable a variety of leading-edge features and functions.

As smartphones become a ubiquitous part of daily consumer life, retailers are developing more sophisticated apps that perform tasks across the enterprise. Here’s a quick look at how Amazon, Home Depot, and Pottery Barn are delivering next-generation capabilities via mobile app.

Amazon gets ‘inspired’ by TikTok

Amazon is adding a Tik Tok-inspired feature to its shopping app. The e-tail giant began rolling out the feature, called Inspire, to select customers in the U.S. in early December, with availability expanding to all U.S. customers in the coming months.

The in-app shopping experience is designed to provide customers with a new way to discover ideas, explore products, and seamlessly shop from content created by other customers, influencers, and brands. When customers see an item in Inspire, they can shop for it in real time on Amazon.

In a few clicks, customers can tap on a video or photo to see product details including average star rating and reviews, color and style options, and price, and then add it to their cart. 

Inspire is designed to learn more about a customer’s preferences through their interests and engagement to continue tailoring their feed of shoppable content. As this new solution rolls out, Amazon plans to add more shoppable features, in-app functionality, and content, with the goal of building a more immersive shopping experience for customers.

The company is also positioning Inspire as a way for brands and influencers to grow their businesses on the Amazon mobile shopping platform. Especially as TikTok faces intense government scrutiny and even a possible U.S. ban, Inspire may present an appealing alternative to many online sellers.

[Read more: Congress introduces bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok in U.S.]

Home Depot provides employees app and device

Store associates at The Home Depot have a new, machine learning (ML)-based  mobile “sidekick” developed to help them prioritize tasks more effectively. The home improvement giant’s new proprietary app, called Sidekick, is an addition to mobile devices it recently provided store associates called hdPhones.

Home Depot’s hdPhones are equipped with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, a long-range scanner, and all-day battery strength, allowing associates to locate products quickly and assist customers both inside the store and in exterior areas such as the parking lot. As a result, the company intends to help associates remove friction from the in-store shopping experience for our customers.

[Read more: Exclusive Q&A with Home Depot senior VP, technology]

Leveraging a cloud-enabled ML algorithm, the app guides associates to prioritize the highest-demand products. Sidekick also utilizes machine vision to identify which shelves associates should restock, and the location of excess product on overhead shelves.

In addition, the app alerts specific associates which tasks need to be completed first via a common tasking engine, and showcases where and how to complete a task in a dashboard with associate and manager views. Sidekick also integrates with other platforms to ensure all data and task prioritization is up-to-date and aligned with the retailer’s broader business needs.

Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen not playing with new shopping apps

New mobile apps from Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen include innovative features such as 3-D augmented reality (AR) shopping. The children’s and teen furniture and accessories banners of home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. are launching new native shopping apps for iPhone users.

The new apps are designed to offer enhanced functionality and an easy-to-use interface. Features of the new Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen mobile apps include the ability for customers to share favorite items with contacts and on social media directly through the apps.

Shoppers can also explore and shop virtual 3-D rooms using augmented reality (AR) technology to design a space in their home directly from the apps, as well as track, manage and add items to a Pottery Barn Kids registry through the new app platform.

The apps also provide seamless browsing of both customer favorite and best-selling products, with customized recommendations by age. An Apple Pay checkout option provides a seamless, secure checkout experience, and customers can use the app to request an appointment with a design expert for a free in-store, in-home or virtual appointment.

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