More businesses are trying mobile apps to lure and keep consumers

intense retail competition has led old standbys, such as Sears, to close dozens of stores. Walmart is venturing online more. And Amazon is expanding offline, opening stores and buying Whole Foods. The fight for retail dollars is fierce, and the battleground will soon migrate into the palms of customers’ hands – via apps on their smartphones.

This isn’t just happening with mega-retailers. Movie chains and pet supply stores are increasingly connecting with their customers through their own branded apps. Zumiez, a specialty clothing chain with 600 stores in the U.S., has an app. Scooter’s Coffee, an Omaha-based coffee chain with 200 stores, has one too. So does New York Pizza Oven, a single pizza parlor in Vermont.

Mobile apps are becoming key ways for customers and retailers to interact. Our recent analysis of data from a large U.S. retailer of video games and electronics (whose name we agreed to keep confidential) found that apps can even affect consumers’ offline buying habits.

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