App review: Appie, groceries 2.0

On: October 16, 2011
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About Bree Tahapary
I obtained my Bachelor's degree in New Media at the University of Amsterdam. For my graduation project at the MediaLAB Amsterdam I was part of an interdisciplinary team. We created the first ever augmented reality art exhibition in Dutch public space for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. After my graduation project I became an intern for the communication and marketing department at theatre and production company MC. I worked on a variety of projects and one of my tasks was to make a design for a mobile application. I got the chance to continue my work for MC as an art and culture journalist. Furthermore, I also am a web editor and a volunteer for Buka Mulu, a platform for Dutch Moluccan youth aspiring to improve their position in Dutch society.


Some do it on a daily basis, some do it on a weekly basis: grocery shopping. The best known and one of the oldest supermarkets in the Netherlands is Albert Heijn. In november 2009 the company introduced Appie (pun intended), a digital grocery shopping assistent right in the palm of your hand. The application is developed by IceMobile. Let’s dive deeper into this app. But first check out this video for a quick overview.

The grocery list

One of the core elements of Appie is of course the grocery list. Albert Heijn is famous for its free recipe magazine Allerhande. All recipes can be found through the app and all ingredients can be added to your grocery list. No need for a recipe? You can of course type in the desired product and you can immediately add these articles to the list. It’s nice that you can search and add general terms to your list instead of filling in the exact brand and product name. So terms like peanut butter, bread, toothpaste can easily be used and even terms that don’t come up in the suggestion box can be added to the list. Another nice feature is formed in the voice search. There’s a microphone button that you can tap, after which Google Voice is activated (in my Android-version). You can then say out loud what product you like and it will give suggestions for products which can be added to the list. In theory, that sounds impressive. After some test runs, I found out that the voice search doesn’t run as smooth as you might expect. As Erik made me aware of the voice search problem:

Translation: Fig jam, salmon fillet and light brown sugar are already on my list
even though I just said ‘beer’ :) #appie

Of course, I put this very example to the test myself and when I said “beer”, Appie gave me “deer” as a suggestion and beer wasn’t even amongst the other suggested terms. Of course, these results may vary because the application strongly depends on several factors like for instance the hardware used (Android, iPhone) or perhaps the background noises surrounding you.

Barcode scanner

Another way to add products to your list is by using the barcode scanner. This feature uses your smartphone’s camera and it works quite good. In this case, only products that are recognized by the application can be added to your grocery list. But there is a remark to be made when it comes to this barcode scanner. In the good old days, when you would do the groceries, you’d take pen and paper and write down everything you need. In that case it’s somewhat useless to use a barcode scanner. Odds are, that you’ve used the product and thrown away the package that it came in. For future use though, the barcode scanner is a very interesting feature. I can imagine that customers use their phone to scan the products. When they’re done, they can pay by phone. In a similar way, Albert Heijn is already using handheld scanners with special paying registers, as is shown in the following clip:

Synchronizing and sorting

First there was the mobile app, then there was de web app. Users can also use the website of Albert Heijn ( to access Appie. You can simply make a list online, and if you have an AH-account, you can synchronize your list made on the website with the list on your mobile app. You can also synchronize between multiple devices, which is useful if you manage a household consisting of more than one person. I tested the synchronization and so far no problems were encountered. One could even use the grocery list as a communication tool by adding words and sentences instead of groceries. If your list is complete, Appie also has the ability to sort your groceries. It does so in a special way. After you’ve located your store within the app, Appie sorts the articles on the list with the most ideal route in that store.


One button that I did not use in Appie  is the Products-button. In this feature you can see what products you have bought earlier. To access this information you need to fill your Bonuscardnumber. When you use Appie, you’ll notice Bonus-products. These are special offers in a loyalty program which you can purchase with a customer card (Bonuskaart). Albert Heijn has had some issues in the past with privacy because customers needed to fill in their personalia when applying for a customer card. This way the supermarket could keep track of every purchase you made using the card. Eventually the company felt the pressure to come with an anonymous version of the card. Despite this, I feel a strong reluctance and also do not see the need in keeping a record of all my grocery shopping. Keeping privacy issues in mind, it can’t harm to be critical.

Next thing on the list?

Appie is very useful app based on a very simple concept: the grocery list. Simply type in, scan (or just say) your desired product and it appears on your list. It works very intuitive and the synchronization works pretty smooth. Appie also carries thousands of recipes with it. And Appie comes totally free of costs. Unless you perhaps use the customer card with your personalized details linked to it. Then there is a implicit price that you might pay concerning your privacy.
So where are we heading in the future with (mobile) innovation in stores? Two examples that give some food for thought. The first example shows how Tesco plays with the mobility of their customers. The second clip shows how IBM envisions the future of shopping. How will these technological changes influence our behaviour on a everyday basis?

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