In a recent article released by Apptentive, major brands were given scores based on the customer experience and sentiment of their mobile customers.  This post dives deeper into two of the lower scores earned by Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney to see what could be improved and why another retailer, Walmart, receives such a higher love score.

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love score
love score

Low Scores for Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney on Mobile

With matching Love Scores of 39, both Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney apps rank 32% lower than the average app in the Apple App Store. Toys”R”Us scored 29% lower than the average catalog app and J.C. Penney scored 30% lower than the average lifestyle app. As companies that are consistently rated extremely high for providing a positive customer experience, their mobile experience is severely lacking and there are a couple of reasons why.

Mobile Experience

To start, both Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney’s mobile apps are exact duplicates of their mobile websites. This creates the impression that neither company cares about providing a useful application. Instead, they looked for a quick solution to extend their brand onto mobile, sacrificing the customer experience in the process.

Toys "R" Us iOS app Toys "R" Us web site J.C. Penny mobile app J.C. Penny mobile web site

Both of these apps are supposed to increase revenue and customer engagement by making it easy to purchase items while on the go. However, the browsing ability is severely limited in both apps. For example, the Toys”R”Us lacks a “back” button and while this single simple piece of functionality may not warrant a negative review, it does hamper a customers ability to easy flow forward and backward through the app.


Besides the fact that the user experience and design hasn’t been optimized for the mobile platform, the main reason both Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney have low Love Scores is due to the performance of their apps. Both apps are riddled with performance issues causing freezes, crashes, and a slow interface on.

Navigating through both apps is a slow process as every page needs time to load. On the left, you can see Toys”R”Us’s spinner that appears briefly after each tap. While not deal breaking on a single occurrence, the constant loading pages would be enough to stop a potential returning customer from coming back.

The speed of J.C. Penney’s app is much slower and each page can take up to 2 seconds to load creating a frustrating shopping experience in today’s world of instant access. Even a first time customer would be hard pressed to continue browsing through the app to make a purchase unless they knew exactly what they wanted.

Toys R Us iOS app load JC Penny Slow app

Looking at the review analysis of both apps, performance issues for both apps are the primary complaint and reason for a negative single star review. While quickly finding a specific item you want and making a purchase may not take too long with these apps, the performance problems will push any browsing customer away to somewhere else.

How Walmart Gets it Right

Walmart received a Love Score of 58, placing it 4% higher than the average Lifestyle app and 2% higher than the average app in the app store. The general layout and structure of the Walmart app isn’t drastically different than Toy”R”Us or J.C. Penney. All three apps have shopping departments and are similarly organized, but Walmart made an effort to streamline the app for people on the go with mobile devices.

Comparing Walmart’s app to its mobile website you see many similarities. The general design and layout are the same, but there a few small changes that make a difference. For many mobile customers, accessing and requesting medicine refills from the pharmacy is essential. The pharmacy button is front and center in the app and the entire pharmacy flow is optimized to make it easy to complete.

Walmart iOS app Walmart mobile web interface

Simple design changes make the app more optimized for mobile than a mobile website. Larger buttons that are easier to click and a more colorful design make a difference. Honestly, there are relatively few differences, but the slight investment in improving the design can make a large difference to the consumer.

A review analysis for the Walmart app shows that performance issues are still a heavy concern, but it is offset by the continual updates, sometimes even twice a month, that contain bug fixes and new features. In comparison, the Toys”R”Us app has only been updated twice since its initial release in September of 2012.

Key items that Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney can learn from Walmart:

  • Update the app design – even slight changes can make a difference
  • Increase the frequency of your app updates – consistent iterations are essential to making a better app
  • Performance issues don’t just disappear – making an app run smoothly takes constant support and a dedicated team

Making an App that People Love

Making an app that people love to use is simple, but execution is difficult, especially when a company is not buying into the platform. The improvements that Walmart has made to its app over time are not revolutionary, creative, or extremely insightful, but they are improvements. It shows that Walmart is actively thinking about how to improve the mobile experience for their customers.

Toys”R”Us and J.C. Penney clearly lack the motivation or guidance on how to create a mobile experience that will increase purchases and customer loyalty. This lack of effort has had a negative impact on their brand. These days mobile is often the first experience a customer has with a company and a mobile app that frustrates customers and pushes them away from the app also pushes customers away from the company.

As shown by the Walmart, even investing a little bit of time can increase the customer love for your app and turn your app into something that people love and want to use. There are many ways all three app can improve, but it starts with making mobile a priority, understanding your customers, and being dedicated to creating a high performance app.

This post originally appeared on Apptentive’s blog.