KEASBEY, N.J. — What do you do if your husband is on the way to the grocery store and you need him to get milk, but you don't want to distract him with a phone call while he's driving?
If he uses ShopRite's Weekly Specials mobile app, you visit shoprite.com  and update a shopping list that automatically syncs with the one on his phone.
The feature is one of several that have drawn mobile users to ShopRite stores since the app's introduction last November. Downloads have “far exceeded” ShopRite's expectations.
“Not only did the app increase loyalty among existing customers, it also helped ShopRite acquire new shoppers,” Cheryl Williams, vice president of marketing for ShopRite/Wakefern Food Corp., told SN. “It's been a great acquisition tool for us.”
Users designate their store, search for sale items by category and populate shopping lists. Items are organized by category so it's easy to check them off on a touchscreen as you add them to your cart.
Although email address, password and other information are required when setting up an account, shoppers don't have to log into the app ever again. Instead, the information is used to sign in at shoprite.com . Visitors can browse weekly circulars, update their shopping list, read health and wellness information and look for recipes.
The setup is geared toward ShopRite's objective of growing its database of email addresses and driving more traffic to ShopRite.com , Rebecca Roose, product marketing manager of the application's creator, MyWebGrocer, Colchester, Vt., told SN.
So far it's been able to do just that.
“More than half of emails acquired [from app users] are new email addresses — from users who were not previously registered at ShopRite.com ,” Williams said.
What's more is that app users are taking the time to get oriented with the website. Many first visit shoprite.com  to download the app and return for the site's other features.
“Customers who are using the app are spending more time on our site and viewing more pages,” noted Williams.
The numbers can only grow now that ShopRite Weekly Specials is available for Android devices.
Previously, the free app could only be used with an iPhone, iTouch or iPad, but earlier this month ShopRite and MyWebGrocer introduced an Android version.
Android apps make sense since user growth rates are overtaking those of the iPhone, Roose explained.
The reason is simple. Whereas the iPhone has just one manufacturer (Apple) and one carrier (AT&T), Android is an operating system used by multiple manufacturers and carriers, so they're winning favor with more and more Americans.
“Our customers were not only asking for an Android app, but were accessing our site using their Android mobile device and we wanted to make it easier for them to do so,” noted Williams.
The apps for both devices are identical except for one feature: Shoppers accessing ShopRite Weekly Specials via an Android phone can leverage voice command.
“When you want to add something to your list, you can click on a microphone icon and speak into the application,” Roose explained. “You can say ‘hot dog,’ the application will recognize the voice command, and you can categorize it under deli.”
ShopRite's Android app introduction comes on the heels of Meijer's Find-It app by Bellevue, Wash.-based Point Inside.
While ShopRite Weekly Specials is designed for planning a shopping trip, Meijer Find-It helps users locate specific products within Meijer stores, and points of interest like the restroom and where they parked their car. It's presently being piloted in five Meijer locations.
The retailer wanted to ease store navigation since the typical Meijer location is about 200,000 square feet.
“The one thing that's consistent with shoppers is they're all carrying a phone,” said Elizabeth Wilson, online/mobile marketing specialist for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer. “We thought this would be beneficial.”
The app pinpoints current location on store-specific maps through a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular towers, said Joshua Marti, co-founder and chief technology officer of Point Inside.
Over 100,000 products that are available at Meijer have been mapped inside the iPhone and Android-compatible app. As of last week, over 8,000 users downloaded Meijer Find-It.
Although it's still pretty new, the retailer has begun work on an updated version, Wilson explained.
“Something like a shopping list function that ties into the mapping is going to be pretty important for us to add,” she said.
The current version allows users to search sale items by category, but they cannot use them to populate a list.
Meijer has considered other ways to improve the Find-It app.
“Point Inside is going through our wish list of items and seeing what would be most efficient to accomplish prior to the holidays,” Wilson said.
Point Inside is also working to enhance capabilities made available to its clients. In the future, big-box retailer app users will be able to pinpoint their current location by picking up the nearest grocery item and scanning its barcode, Marti said.