Mobile Savings Apps: How Back-to-School Shopping is Changing

Ten years ago, we sat next to our parents while they flipped through the Sunday newspaper looking for back to school deals, picking out the newest school supplies and must have backpacks to check off our supply lists. As technology became more of a centerpiece for mass advertising, television commercials and billboards were the next big thing. Today, smart phone apps are beginning to change the way we tackle back to school shopping lists, making the once tedious process more accessible and fun for the entire family.


Major corporations like Target and Wal-Mart are appealing to digital natives and the “tech savvy” with their apps, Cartwheel and Savings Catcher. These companies, already well known for their low prices, have branded their apps to make it easier for their customers to get the deal. According to Target, Cartwheel users have already saved $107,297,608- and counting! Not only do these apps help you save on everyday items, the more you access the app the more savings opportunities you’ll receive. Cartwheel invites users to “play more save more” to unlock “offer spots” that were otherwise not available. The Wal-Mart Savings Catcher allows you to compare their deals to other stores and guarantee to match any lower price you find. Not only will using these apps save you money, they’ll save you time and make back-to-school shopping more interactive.

While it’s easy to recognize apps created by these major corporations, apps like Key Ring are making a name for themselves in the mobile savings world. Although not tied to any major brand, the Key Ring app has become popular as one of the most helpful when it comes to savings. Creator, Chris Fagan, released on the apps website that in its first year on the market Key Ring had 400,000 installs. That number quickly grew to 1,000,000, and now stands at more than 10,000,000 four years later. Unlike Cartwheel and the Savings Catcher, Key Ring’s interactive experience goes one step further. By allowing you to make and share shopping lists, view deals from multiple retailers, store your existing loyalty rewards cards, and scan barcodes on the spot users can organize and complete their back-to-school shopping with ease.


As the motive for discount shopping opportunities increases, easier access through mobile apps gratifies the modern shopper’s needs. The Uses and Gratifications Approach explains how individuals actively seek out media to satisfy their individual needs. Like with back-to-school shopping, mobile apps allow you to search and apply discounts directly to the items you need faster than the hours spent cutting coupons in the past. As digital natives we ask ourselves: Why would we spend hours scouring newspaper clippings when we can access thousands of discounts with the touch of a finger anywhere we are?

Angelica DiPaolo, Morganne McIntyre, Anderson McNaull, Madeline O’Connor, Rachel White