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Cool and helpful shopping apps for your smart phone

Updated on April 6, 2015
Shopping for a bargain doesn't have to be hard.
Shopping for a bargain doesn't have to be hard.

Your very own shopping assistant

In this very tough economy, shoppers are searching for the best deals on anything from groceries to clothing and electronics. In this digital age, consumers don't have to spend time and gas driving from store to store. There are apps for that!

I am reviewing several shopping apps including Target, Walmart, and Walgreen's apps and bar code scanners. Are they easy, and are they worth your time?

Store Apps

It seams like anyone can have their own app today. Some of the most useful apps have been created by some of your favorite stores. Target, Walmart, and even Walgreens have their own apps to make your shopping experience better.

Target

Target's app opens to reveal featured deals. Along the top of the screen is a red tool bar. In the upper right hand corner is a little white shopping cart that will reveal any items that you shoppers have selected to purchase. To the left of that is a magnifying glass. When this is tapped, a search bar is opened. Shoppers have the option of typing what they want or scanning a bar code. After searching, results show pictures, descriptions, and prices of matching items, and if it is available at a local store, it will even mention what aisle to find it in. The upper left hand corner of the app has three horizontal lines. This expands a full menu that includes "Weekly Ad" and "Deals & Coupons" for bargain hunters, "Store Finder" to find a location near you, and "Registries" to access friends' gift registries. The menu also offers a "Pharmacy" option for refilling prescriptions and a "Gift Card" option to track gift cards.

As a companion, Target has recently launched Cartwheel. Cartwheel offers an extra percentage off of select items (almost like coupons). Users select deals in which they are interested, and it provides a single bar code to be scanned at the register. No coupons to clip, no paper cuts, and only one bar code to be scanned. Easy peasy! These deals can also be stacked with merchant and manufacturer coupons for even more savings.

Walmart

Walmart brings their "everyday low prices" to their app with an easy to use dashboard that drops down from their logo to line the top of the screen. Their app lets users shop, locate stores, view their local ad, value of the day, track orders, scan QR codes, and more.

When the app loads, users are greeted with a "Value of the Day," rollbacks, and easy access to their local ad. The app uses the devices built in GPS to locate nearby stores. Easy online shopping of special deals provide users with product ratings and warranty information.

The pharmacy shortcut from the main screen lets users refill prescriptions, view prescription history, browse Walmart's $4 prescriptions, and find a pharmacy.

The Photo link launches the web browser to view and share photos online and order photos for 1-hour pickup.

The QR code scanner is interactive with the Walmart ad, so if a QR code is scanned from the ad, the user will be sent to the Walmart website to see more information about the product.

Walmart is also offering Savings Catcher. To use Savings Catcher, simply scan the bar code at the bottom of your receipt after checkout. The app will then scan the internet for prices at local competitors, and if it finds prices of the items your purchased lower at a competitor, it will credit the price difference to a Walmart eGift Card to be used at a future purchase.


Walgreens

The Walgreens app is as versatile as an actual Walgreens store. The Walgreens app starts with large, clearly labeled icons that take users to different areas of interest such as the "Pharmacy" where a prescription can be refilled or "Photo" where pictures can be uploaded, shared, and ordered for in-store pickup. There is a "Weekly Ad" link, a "Coupon" link, and even a "Shopping List" link. The "Gift Finder" gives a quick breakdown of gift suggestions based on who the gift is for: her, him, kids, pets, under $5, and "for good health." The "Shop" link reveals categories of products including "as seen on tv," to allow users to either shop online or find items in their local stores. The "Find a Clinic" link lets users enter their city and state or zip code to find a nearby Take Care Clinic.

Walgreens has added integration with their Live Well program. Earn extra points for logging healthy activities such as steps walked, sleeping, quitting smoking, or blood glucose or pressure levels.

Bar code scanners make shopping easier.
Bar code scanners make shopping easier.

Bar Code Scanners

These outstanding apps use your device's built in camera to scan bar codes and search the web for the best deals. Multiple stores can be compared to make sure you are getting the best deal, and many stores will even price match the results!

RedLaser Barcode & QR Scanner

RedLaser is a simple point and shoot bar code scanner that compares prices with thousands of online retailers and offers coupons and deals for online and local retailers. It is even an electronic wallet for customer loyalty cards. RedLaser even has a nifty feature that displays product ratings, nutrition facts, and critical allergen information when a food item is scanned.

ShopSavvy

When ShopSavvy first loads, it suggests multiple products and deals in which consumers may be interested. By tapping the "Deals" icon, deals get a little more organized. If GPS is enabled on your device, the app will suggest stores near your location. Simply tap the name of a store to see what deals are available. Want to save a deal to go back to later? Tap the star next to the deal to mark it as a favorite. Want to see if the store has an item in stock? Tap the green "Call" icon at the top of the screen to call the local store. Need directions? Tap the "Directions" icon (a little map with a red pin) to use your device's built in GPS to get directions. Rather than being just a price comparison app, ShopSavvy has the equivalent of the ads in the local Sunday paper.

ShopSavvy's bar code scanner works similarly to Google Shopper's. Just point, and the scanner auto-focuses and scans the bar code. An online comparison appears offering a selection of new or used items.

Rewards Programs

There are several rewards programs that aren't associated with one particular store which may allow you to accumulate awards more quickly or offer a wider range of benefits.

shopkick: Rewards & Deals

Shopkick is an awesome app that gives you points, Kicks, for shopping For optimal results, ensure that GPS is enabled. When the Shopkick app loads, it displays area participating stores and products. Tap the Product tab to scan through Look Books, collections of products such as clothing, home d├ęcor, and sometime recipe ideas. Sometimes there are bonus kicks in the Look Books; bonus Kicks look like little envelopes that will ding when tapped and show how many points they are worth. The major Kicks are awarded to your account as you enter select stores. Kick amounts will vary depending on the retailer and special events. Scan products as you shop for extra Kicks. Rewards include gift cards, clothing and purses, small appliances, and even a scooter and cruise.

CheckPoints

CheckPoints gives points for shopping like Shopkick, but unlike Shopkick, points are also awarded for watching short videos or playing instant win games. Rewards range from gift cards, charity donations, electronics, to purses.

Belly

Belly is a great frequent customer app for smaller businesses. Participating businesses will have an iPad or similar device at the register with information about the program. Simply tap the iPad screen to activate the camera, scan the QR cod from your Belly app or Belly card, and you will be rewarded with a point. The points add up for free or discounted goods or services such as free dog treats at the pet store, free soda at the pizza place, a free oil change at the mechanic, or maybe a discount on catering from the local Italian restaurant.

Reader's Poll

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