Price Check on iPhone 5

Macy’s, Walmart ramp up mobile in-store for the holidays

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In-store shoppers are using their smartphones like never before. So it may come as little surprise that big-box retailers are rolling out a plethora of mobile bells and whistles just in time for Black Friday.

“Mobile is bringing everything that is digital and everything that is e-commerce into the stores,” said Artemis Berry, senior content director for the National Retail Federation’s digital division, “It’s taking shopping to the next level.”

Indeed, Macy’s shoppers will be able to find Black Friday specials via the retailer’s revamped smartphone app, which now includes maps for each of its 800 locations. At Macy’s flagship, the 1 million-square-foot midtown Manhattan location, shoppers can access turn-by-turn directions in a pilot program by tech firm Meridian. What’s more, in all of the retailer’s stores, app users will receive exclusive specials every five minutes through a push-notification feature. “The holidays will give us a good read on how well it works to tease unadvertised items on the app,” said Jennifer Kasper, group vp of digital/new media and multicultural marketing, Macy’s.

As a real bonus, Macy’s app will allow parents to reserve their children’s visit with Santa Claus and skirt the long lines.

Meanwhile, Walmart will offer shoppers in-store directions to Black Friday offers in its 4,000 locations, a company first. The retailer has also begun to geo-fence its stores, so when app users are on Walmart premises, they see an option to momentarily replace the out-of-store app with an in-store version. Early test results show that 60 percent of users are choosing the in-store app, and 12 percent of sales on the app are occurring in-store.

“Let’s say you are in a store that is out of a shirt that you want,” said Gibu Thomas, svp, mobile and digial, Walmart. “You can flip the app back over, and it will show you if it’s in inventory online. Now it’s available at the tap of the finger.” 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.