Appy shopper: the mobile apps that are changing the way we shop

"People are the best shortcuts we have in terms of finding things that are most relevant to us," says founder and CEO Deena Varshavskaya.

"Twitter is a really wonderful example of this, it has organised all of the world's news around people. Depending on which accounts you follow, you can create your own personalised feed of news through people.

"What we do at Wanelo runs parallel to that. You follow stores and users, creating a custom feed and filtering down what's suitable and relevant to for you."

The app centres on "organising shopping around people," rather than the other way around. With this app, and others like Fancy and Etsy, users can always be shopping, rather than having to make a trip into town.

Meanwhile, on the High Street

But what do these mobile experiences, which have the advantage of reams of data on user habits, do for the poor old High Street, still focused on intent rather than discovery? Well, the prognosis might not be as severe as it appears on the surface.

"We know that we have a really big impact. Our users have spent so much time on our app browsing products that by the time they come into the store, they already know the inventory," said Varshavskaya, who hopes to eventually connect the Wanolo app with physical retailers.

"They might come in looking for a particular item so they can try it on, or just buy it directly. They're now coming into the stores with a lot of knowledge. I think it is making a significant impact in a way that retailers are not yet aware."

Indeed, where there is extra pressure to stay relevant and attractive to shoppers in the mobile age, there is also opportunity.

Natural retail selection

While online giants such as Amazon may have played a role in the demise of smaller, physical retailers, the best ones will adapt and thrive, according to Chris Parry, Senior Lecturer in the Accounting and Finance department at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

"Shopping apps aren't a way to kill the High Street, they're advantageous to the High Street, providing they're managed properly," he told us.

"It's not the 1960s. The High Street must evolve and use these apps as an opportunity. If a small high street store in South Wales is able to sell to someone in South Florida then that's excellent. There's a way to maintain the individuality and links with the local community, while spreading the net wider."

Siberian-born Varshavskaya puts it in plainer terms: "They have no choice, but to adapt."

Indeed, the most successful retailers are finding ways to marry the two worlds. Some are offering in-store pickup within 30 minutes for items purchased online, and price-matching schemes that can keep price comparison apps that ensure we always get the best deal at bay.

"The holy grail for the most advanced price comparison apps is never having to overpay for anything," says CamFind's Mazur.

"This is helping a transfer of power to the customer and I'm all for it," adds Parry.

When it comes down to brass tacks, mobile-savvy shoppers aren't mourning the demise of the bricks-and-mortar High Street. Instead, they're voting with their fingers and thumbs on apps and optimised websites. We're more focused on what we want, and more open to what we might want than ever before.

Those retailers who can react to the change will survive, flourish and remain part of our lives. Those who don't? Well, we're sorry for their loss. May they rest in peace.

Chris Smith

A technology journalist, writer and videographer of many magazines and websites including T3, Gadget Magazine and He specializes in applications for smartphones, tablets and handheld devices, with bylines also at The Guardian, WIRED, Trusted Reviews and Wareable. Chris is also the podcast host for The Liverpool Way. As well as tech and football, Chris is a pop-punk fan and enjoys the art of wrasslin'.