Kohl’s originated as a supermarket in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, opened by Maxwell Kohl in 1927. In 1962, the company opened its first department store, growing to the point where, as of 2017, its stores are present in 49 states.
Kohl’s has been a dominant and respected brand for over five decades; however, early 2017 saw its shares fall 19% during what The Wall Street Journal said was the stock’s “worst year on record.”
Like many other large retailers, its physical stores have struggled with a reduction in sales, however, rather than opting to close down many stores as others have, its preference has been to reduce the size of the store.
Competing in the digital space has become a crucial strategy…
Given the downturn in sales in physical retail stores, Kohl’s has big plans to fight back with technology, hoping to create the image of having the coolest customer-facing tech. It was slow on the ecommerce uptake, but now has a tech team of 800 at headquarters and 200 in its Silicon Valley Digital Center.
Mobile apps are one way that retailers are duking it out, hoping to create a better experience for customers than the next competitor.
Kohl’s iOS app was first developed in 2013 but has been kept regularly updated. Has it done as well as we’d expect from a large retailer with mega-budgets for marketing? Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the interesting…
One thing that immediately jumps out is how well Kohl’s showcases customer reviews on products. You can easily see the average star rating as well as the number of reviews given right from the main product page. Customers can easily click on the expansion arrow to read those reviews in more detail if they wish, but we love how the clear placement of average star rating can act as a quick filter otherwise.
The layout of the review page once customers click through is nicely intuitive. You have a reference to the item you’re reading about at the top of the page and a clear link to go back to the product page. Ratings are broken down by quality, style, and value, three things that will be of importance to its customers. App users can filter the reviews in a number of different ways to read the ones that they’d like to see.
One feature that we feel helps to lend credibility to the reviews is that customers can click to see the details of the review, including username, where the customer is from, their age, and when they left the review. It helps to create some level of trust by being able to see that the review appears genuine.
Overall, the app was generally snappy, but it did seem to be prone to intermittent sluggishness. For example, when moving back and forth between the checkout and payment screens, it was usually okay, but the “loading” screen did come up a couple of times.
Sometimes lists of items seemed to take a few extra seconds to load, which was annoying, but not a total deal-breaker for the app.
One thing we really didn’t like was the ads that popped up from time to time in the bottom bar of the app. I’m here to spend money on your products and you want to make more money from me by showing unrelated, low-resolution ads?
For us, that would be enough to see us try out a competitor’s app instead. We were getting ads for companies like Lyft in the app for a major brand – completely unnecessary!
The primary purpose of the Kohl’s app is to sell its products, something that they definitely paid attention to when designing the app features. One of the features that helps Kohl’s accomplish this goal is its questions and answers section.
If you scroll down on the product pages, you’ll find questions and answers above the “Item Details” section. You’ll see how many questions and answers there are and can click the expansion arrow to view them in detail.
Once you’ve expanded, you can see the questions, view details of answers and who answered them, or answer a question yourself. You can also sort the questions and answers by newest if you wish. As an added feature, you can rate each question and answer as helpful or unhelpful.
Finally, you can also ask a new question about the item if you wish. This is a great way to go beyond reviews and to provide information for both customers and the company. Customers get to ask what they really want to know, while Kohl’s gets to see what it is that its customers find important.
Overall, the Kohl’s app achieves a solid 4 out of 5 stars in the app store and we rate it a B. Reviews show that they have made the effort to improve the app based on feedback over time and that generally, shoppers like it.
Kohl’s could work on the reliability of the app speed and frankly, it needs to ditch the annoying, unrelated advertisements!
It’s interesting to note also the recent addition of Kohl’s Pay to its app offerings, which allows shoppers to apply all of their offers, rewards, and Kohl’s charge in one checkout scan. At this time, it is only for those with a Kohl’s Charge Card, but we wonder if they’ll expand that to other credit cards for easy payment?
In summary, Kohl’s is definitely showing a commitment to competing in the digital market. Hopefully, with its investment, features within its mobile app will continue to improve.
Author: Emily Gomez & Einar Vollset, Corresponding Author: [email protected].
For each teardown we collect over 200 data points, including UX best practices, search capabilities, payment integrations as well as re-engagement tactics and social/engagement features. Each teardown includes an overall score, along with the score for each of the 20+ categories we collect data under. We then provides either video and/or slideshow content of the actual app, highlighting important parts of the app along with particularly good, bad or surprising functionality.