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Walgreens’ new Android app exemplifies benefits of Lollipop for retailers

Walgreens stands out among retailers in leveraging the best features of Android’s new Lollipop software, such as interactive push notifications.

With the recent announcement of Android 5.0 Lollipop, there are several notable features available to retailers that are innovative from Apple software. Retailers are slowly realizing the need to invest in Android apps given the increase of Android market share year after year.

“I would highlight Walgreens, Walmart, CVS and Best Buy as far as the best Android apps out there,” said Paul Alvarez, vice president of sales and business development at Atimi, Vancouver, BC. “Walgreens has always done a great job adding innovative features like Coupon Widgets to be able to preview coupons from the home screen, prescription refill by scanning the label from a device, creating photo cards and poster or canvas prints directly from photos on users’ phones and many other features tied into the in-store experience.”

“Retailers and brands in general definitely have to make Android a priority,” he said. “The global market share is significant to say the least and certainly cannot be overlooked.

“That said, all those users have a wide variety of devices in their hands and are not all running the same version of Android so there are some decisions to be made regarding how to define and develop their app for a lowest common denominator and how to make that the largest number possible.”

Guide to Android
Mobile solutions provider No Need 4 Mirrors (NN4M) recently released research that breaks down the most useful features of Android software for retailers upon the recent announcement of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Regarding appearance, Lollipop offers a design concept called Material Design, which is more dynamic and intelligent. The icons are simplified, it features bright colors and a tile-like feel, as well as a cleaner navigation system.

Android Lollipop also features interactive push notifications. The notification panel is being merged with the lock screen so users can see an overview of the most important information before they unlock their phone. A learning tool is also incorporated, which learns what users open or do not open and will prioritize the most relevant information deemed by the user.

The Ok Google search tool allows users to interact with brand apps through voice commands. A recent Google study found that 55 percent of teens use voice search everyday, while 56 percent of adults said using voice search makes them feel tech-savvy.

NN4M also believes there are certain Android features that are underused.

With Android widgets, retailers have the opportunity to add the home and lock screens, which can extend their presence to other areas in users’ devices. They can be implemented seamlessly through retailers’ apps and can feature scrolling new-in products which, when tapped, link straight to a product’s page.

“Android features that we love include widgets and interactive push notifications,” said Jonathan Heap, CTO of NN4M, Edinburgh. “Widgets give retailers the opportunity to extend the presence of their app to the home screen and lock screen, while interactive push notifications give users options to respond to pushes.

“Some more techy features that are less used but still valuable are Google Wallet, which allows for one-click checkout in supporting countries, and deep linking, also known as integrating with Google Search,” he said. “We think that River Island, Mothercare and Debenhams stand out when it comes to well-designed Android apps.

“We’re also fans of ASOS and H&M.”

Android 5.0 Lollipop will be rolled out by the end of November.

How to adapt
Android software may offer several innovative features, but the legwork to integrate it is hefty.

“There are two primary issues retailers should be aware of related to Android apps,” said Terry Miller, technical advisor at Mobiquity. “First, developing an app for the Android environment means designing, developing and testing for hundreds, if not thousands, of permutations of operating system versions, manufacturer devices and screen dimensions and resolutions.

“Second, retailers need to be aware of the limited support for beacon technologies,” he said.

As beacons become more prevalent, Android software becomes increasingly support of those efforts. While the Android market consists of a large percentage of consumers, retailers must not turn the other way.

“The main difference between Lollipop and other versions of Android is the new design,” said Michael Moussa, Android platform lead at Mobiquity. “Otherwise, retail should take note of the ability to act as a beacon.

“Although beacon support has existed since Android 4.3, it wasn’t stable enough for regular use until 4.4.3,” he said. “There are also potential security issues to consider with Bluetooth LE, and the fact that there are also more profiles available to the developer with Android.

“With iOS, there’s not as much open, so there is less of a chance for exposure and potential security holes.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York