In early July, Costco released their first shopping app for iPhone and Android smartphones. And of course it is free from the corresponding app stores. This is a great way for your to have all kinds of Costco information right in the palm of your hand. Basically the app is a great substitute for the website. You can shop, refill prescriptions, get information about current or previous orders, look at the current online offers or the current coupon book. You can also renew or buy a membership and find the Costco locations nearest to you or a specific location too. In addition, you can also use the app to interact with the Costco Photo Center. And if that isn’t enough, you can also check out the latest edition of The Costco Connection magazine. Really, everything you could need from Costco. I’ve got a gallery of screenshots at the bottom of this post so you can see what the different sections have and just in general how the app looks.
Since I have an iPhone all of my screenshots are from that version of the app. However, I imagine that the Android version has a very similar look and feel and certainly has all of the same abilities. If you search for “Costco” in the Apple iTunes store you will easily find the right app (it’s not the Finding Costco app which is a total rip off at $0.99). While the app isn’t totally perfect at this point, and there are some things that I would like them to add, it is a good start and makes it easier for me to look up information from my phone rather than needing a computer. There’s nothing that you can get from the app that isn’t available on the website, but since you don’t always have your whole computer with you perhaps, this is a good substitute. I should also point out that this app is geared towards Costco US customers for shopping, coupons, and all that type of thing, however, the location finder definitely works here in the UK. It doesn’t look like Costco Canada has their own app out yet either, even though they are the only other country to have a fully fleshed out ecommerce experience; maybe someday soon though.
When you open the app you will see a horizontal scrolling list of the top sellers on the site. You can click on any of these and easily pop one into your cart. But there are three other ways to shop too, well 3.5 if you count the warehouse coupons, I guess. The first way you can shop is by searching for the product that you want. However, you can also browse through the categories to find items. Alternatively, you can also view the Online Offers section for a full list of products that have deals right now and click on any of those that appeal to you. The last way that you can shop is from the warehouse coupons. If there is anything in the warehouse coupons that you can also get through Costco.com you can click on that ‘coupon’ and you will be taken to the product listing. The product listings are very easy to read and in some ways more user friendly than the full online version. For instance, I really prefer the way that the photos are handled on the app with arrows and thumbnails for additional photos, as opposed to the outdated ‘More Views’ link that you’ll find at Costco.com. However, since you can’t zoom in on the photos I think there’s still room for improvement. The app is a good though because it includes all of the information you would find online, the top is all of the main product information such as photos, price, and item number and then if you scroll down there are collapsible sections for the things like product and shipping information, as well as product reviews. At the very bottom of the product listing is a ‘People Also Viewed’ section, which can be helpful. One of the cool things is that if you put a product in your shopping cart on your phone or the regular Costco.com site, it shows up in the other one. I find it handy to have that kind of compatibility across apps and computers; it makes it easier on you if you remember something you want to buy in the middle of the night or when you are away from your computer.
The other big reason I see people using this app is to locate a Costco near a specific address or near them. The app will use your current location if you want to find a Costco store nearby and that is really great if you like to visit Costco in cities you aren’t that familiar with. For each location found, you can drill down to get specific warehouse information such as address and phone number, opening hours and available services. From the list, you can also choose to get directions. On my iPhone this opened up Google Maps and gave me full turn by turn directions on the map. It actually even gave me a choice of three different routes to use, which is nice. This would have been so great to have when we first moved here and didn’t have a sat nav or even a decent idea of where the Costco stores were relative to us. My only complaint with this section is that they should really allow you to get directions from either the list or a specific store listing. That seems like such a trivial thing to add to the individual listings I can’t imagine why they overlooked it. Having it on the search results list only makes it just that little bit less user friendly, to me.
It’s great that they have a section for the current coupon book or warehouse offers. This is pretty much like the PDF version that I have, but formatted for your phone, which makes it quite handy. However, I was really hoping that this would be a way that they would start getting away from paper coupon books. Or at least a nice alternative to it, since I know that not everyone has a smartphone. It would be great if Costco would allow you to have a membership setting that would say “don’t send me a physical coupon book I’ll just use the app” and then the app could have the bar code that they could scan at checkout and you could still save money and they could save a few trees and mailings in the process. I would just really like to see Costco get away from the physical coupon books. They could at least follow the set up they have here in the UK where they don’t collect the coupons but just automatically apply the discounts, it saves a few pages in the books at least. But I digress. In any case, you can at least have a reminder of what the coupons are in the new book. You know what else would be nice though? It would be great if you could click on the coupons and add them to your shopping list automatically.
Yes, that is something else that the app has: a shopping list. It’s really a pretty simple memo portion of the app with the ability to make a list with check boxes. It’s very simple but I’ll definitely be using it in the future. It’s hard to find a good, simple list with checkboxes app that doesn’t require you to sign up to an account somewhere or do anything fancy. What can I say, I like the simplistic nature of the list feature. Of course, there are a couple of little things that they could add that would really make it a little more usable. For starters, when I am adding something and hit return it could just go to a new line and allow me to keep adding things without needing to make an additional click on the plus sign in the corner. Also, I think it would be nice if they would let you rearrange your list once you have added everything to it. Just a little moving up or down would make this better because then you could arrange things in your store shopping pattern of choice. But those are pretty small things and this will certainly be more handy than the list app I’ve been using or my old fashioned paper and pen list.
I really think it is great that you can interact with the Costco Pharmacy through the app too. I love that you can reorder your prescriptions from your phone. And then after you reorder, you can check the status right from your phone too. Since I clearly do not have a prescription at a Costco US location, I didn’t have a chance to really check out all of this section too well. I’m betting though that it doesn’t let you scan the bar code on the prescription bottle to order your refills and that would certainly be something I think they should add for ease of use. But it does make it a little more convenient even if you have to type it in yourself and that is great. Plus, you can also get drug information, including the big one of what may interact with a medication. The other thing that rocks about this part of the app is that you can check on drug pricing. How handy would that be the next time you are standing there in the Walmart or Walgreen’s pharmacy? They’re standing there telling you your medication is going to be some high amount and this will mean you can take a second to easily look it up and know if you should take your prescription to Costco instead (the answer will most likely be “yes”). And that is one trick that this app can do on your phone so much better than Costco.com’s full online site.
So, for the sake of anyone reading this post, I’m going to end it here because I’ve already written quite a bit. All in all, I would say that this is a good handy and portable version of the Costco.com site. However, there are a few places that they could improve. Since this is the first month of app-hood for Costco though, I’m certainly thinking this is a good start. I know they had some problems with the photo center portion of the app when it first came out, but they have updated that and it seems to work now. Some of the improvements I’m hoping for will probably require big company policy type changes but it’s probably time for Costco to be moving towards those things anyway, like cutting down on physical coupons. One of the other things that might be nice would be if they had an image of your membership card in the app that could be scanned during checkout with a bar code or QR code. My insurance company does that in their app and I think it is great because that means it is just one more thing that I don’t have to carry in my wallet. I would also like it so much if Costco would give you a little bit more account information, and you know they have it. Things I would like to have either in the app or at Costco.com for my account would be: how much I’ve spent in the last year, when my membership is up for renewal, if they have sent my 2% refund check already, and how much that refund is going to be with a running refund total throughout the year. It would be kind of cool if they could show you the information about the categories of things you have bought over the last year too, like the end of year summary from American Express where you can see how much you spent on office products, clothing, food, etc. But those are all pretty deep changes, so I’m hoping they get there someday, but I don’t need or expect it to be this year; though if it were I would not complain.
Costco App Screenshot Gallery: