Walgreens Gets Nationwide In-Store Navigation, But Not In Its Own App

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Indoor navigation startup aisle411 has just snagged its biggest retail partner yet. The company this week announced its first nationally scaled in-store search solution for Walgreens and its 7,900+ U.S. stores. Using the app, customers can view the maps of any Walgreens store to locate products by aisle and section. The app also supports other shopper-friendly functions like lists, voice-to-text, and barcode scanning.

However, aisle411′s barcode scanning feature is designed to help customers add products to shopping lists, not to comparison shop for better prices – like those they could find online (cough, Amazon, cough). The sneaky idea here is that armed with this app in hand, customers won’t bother to close it, re-open another app and then scan products in search of deals and discounts. They’ll just find the product they want in the store, navigate there, and buy it. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

While Walgreens is a big win for aisle411, this is the sort of functionality that would make more sense in – well, you know – the Walgreens app itself. The official Walgreens app is arguably not a bad one as far as retailers’ apps go, offering lists, pharmacy access, refills by scan, weekly ads, mobile coupons, pill reminders and more, in addition to the usual text-based product search and store locator functionalities. It seems that Walgreens’ most regular shoppers will launch the company’s app to check the ads, not aisle411′s. They also won’t necessarily need much help finding their way through a store, I’d wager. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten lost in a Walgreens? Exactly).

This isn’t the first retail partnership for aisle411, but it’s the first on a national scale. Other retail partners include grocers like Hy-Vee, Nob Hill, Safeway, Raley’s, WinCo, Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons, Foods Co, and home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Frankly, it’s the larger stores where indoor navigation makes more sense. Most of us know our way through our local grocery store and drug store. (My husband can blindly navigate through Home Depot as well, but that’s not the norm.)

Consumers may or may not think of aisle411 as a must-have, but retail partners get something important through their deals with the startup: access to data. Knowing which products are in demand, are hard to find, etc., can be helpful for inventory management, ordering, replenishment, and store layout decisions.