Who has the fastest growing app? Uber, Tinder, Nike? None of the above. It's Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), the discount department store best known for its consistent stock of generalized home and fashion goods.
Looking at apps with at least 1 million monthly users, Kohl's increased the user base on its app by nearly 800 percent after giving it an overhaul last fall, making it second only to ride-sharing service Lyft, according to data from Comscore. Since then, Kohl's app has garnered more than 6.5 million downloads. The app is available for iPhone and Android and features the retailer's Yes2You loyalty program, which enables shoppers to track rewards and predict how accumulated points will affect prices, reported RetailDive.
Kohl's is also upgrading its stores—with more than 1,200 locations—and has reported its first quarterly gain in almost two years, up 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 over the prior year. Chief digital officer Krista Berry, who formerly worked at Target and Nike, led the effort to revamp the app. The app, among other IT projects, is a high priority at Kohl's.
"We really had to step back and ask, What do we want to be in digital when we grow up?" Berry told Yahoo! Finance.
Many in the tech business may look down on traditional retailers, but the success of Kohl's app, along with those from Walmart and Target, proves that traditional retailers can remain competitive on the mobile front.
"They gave people a simple value proposition and—boom—all of a sudden people are downloading these apps," said Andrew Lipsman, VP of marketing and insights, Comscore.
The overhaul of the app isn't finished, either. Later this year, customers will be able to order items for delivery or pickup at Kohl's stores thanks to the retailer's new pilot of Google's Express local delivery service. Customers will be able to save and view items in a single virtual "bag"—or digital shopping cart—on any of their computers and devices. Thus, the result of a late-night shopping session on a laptop can be conveniently assessed on a smartphone in the morning during a user's daily routine.
"As someone who has worked in retail for a long time, it is sort of a dream come true," Berry said.
Kohl's future in mobile payments is still up in the air. "We're exploring several options. That book is yet to be written," Berry said.
Kohl's is also participating in the MCX initiative, meaning it will comport with the payments app CurrentC, even as other retailers are carefully monitoring the rapid progress being made by Apple Pay.
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