2017 was the year of the mobile shopping app, and that should help shoppers reap big benefits in 2018. No matter what kind of shopper you are, there's an app for you and the way you like to do business.
The In-Store Couponer
Like to do your shopping in person? Do you consider yourself a master coupon-clipper? Feel like you can't buy something without picking it up and looking at it? Plenty of apps can help you navigate the brick-and-mortar world.
Apps for Comparing Prices
Amazon and eBay demand early mentions. Both apps have built-in barcode scanners, so you can tell whether the price in front of you is the one you want to pay. Advantage eBay here, as the scanner makes it easy to search for deals on both new and used items, which could save you some serious cash.
It seems like every major supermarket has an app these days. If one of those stores is nearby, you can make a shopping list, and it'll tell you which aisle everything's on — handy if you're at a new store, or if you can't find an employee. Some grocery chains also offer pickup or delivery services via their apps.
Big Retailer Apps
The apps for big-box stores — Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc. — mostly do the same things. They tell you where your nearest store is, they tell you what the latest deals are, and they let you buy things for in-store pickup or shipment to your house. That said, Target has deals that you can only get through the app.
The Restaurant Connoisseur
There's a whole world of apps waiting to rock your restaurant world. Google reviews and Yelp get a lot of publicity, but let's dig a little deeper.
Reservation and Waitlist Apps
If you haven't heard of OpenTable yet, you're missing out. OpenTable lets you make reservations at more than 40,000 restaurants around the world from your phone. It's nearly ubiquitous, especially in bigger cities. But you should also check out its competitors.
Resy features many higher-end restaurants that have fled OpenTable. It's free to download, though you may have to put in a credit card number to make reservations for those restaurants that have cancellation fees.
If your favorite restaurant doesn't take reservations, check out Nowait. The app lets you get on the waitlist of local no-reservation restaurants, and tells you exactly when to arrive. The days of waiting 45 minutes for your baby back ribs are over.
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Fast Food Apps
Want to swing through Panera for a pre-work bagel without waiting for 15 people to make up their minds? No time to stand in line at Chick-fil-A? Just about every fast food restaurant has an app that lets you order food ahead of time now. Some fast food joints will even give you discounts, coupons, and rewards for using their apps.
The Groupon App
Groupon also often has deals for local restaurants; it's worth watching the app to catch a deal on lunch with your friends.
The Online-Exclusive Shopper
If you'd rather browse and buy online instead of shopping in person, there's plenty of apps out there for you, too.
If you like to shop for lots of different products in the same place, of course you should check out the apps from the biggest sites, like Amazon and Jet.com. A handy feature in the Amazon app is the Alexa voice assistant, which you can use to search for products, reorder items, and more. If you prefer goods of the handmade variety, look into the Etsy app. This lets you favorite items and shops, gives you personalized recommendations, and can notify you when your order ships.
And then there's Wish, which bills itself as a "mobile mall." It connects you directly to manufacturers as a way of lowering prices. The app features customer reviews, order tracking, and opportunities to earn rewards.
Retail and Grocery Delivery Apps
Plenty of grocery store apps offer either delivery or pickup services, which is perfect for folks who don't care to venture out of the house or don't have time to spend hours in the store. These include apps from stores like Walmart, Publix, Farm Fresh, and Harris Teeter. If your favorite store doesn't have its own app, check out Instacart, which delivers in as little as an hour from Costco, Whole Foods, Petco, and more.
Craigslist is famously great; its interface is famously basic. A number of apps alleviate some of the mobile woes, both in searching for deals and for listing items. CL Mobile and CPlus for Craigslist are two of the highest-rated apps. They have different interfaces, but they're both free; download them both and keep the one you like.
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Cash Back Apps
Ibotta partners with online (and traditional) retailers to find you discounts and rebates. Pick the store you want to shop at, find a current deal on something you want, and buy it. Snap a picture of the receipt (or sync a loyalty card), and you get your rebate. Ibotta currently partners with more than 300 retailers, so it's easy to find a deal on something you want.
Dosh purports to do something similar to Ibotta — but instead of waiting for deals, Dosh just watches your cards for available cash back deals, and automatically credits those deals to your account. The catch: You have to give Dosh access to your cards.
What about you, readers? What apps do you use to make your mobile shopping experiences better every day? Tell us in the comments below!