LONDON: Major grocery retailers like Tesco, Metro and 7-Eleven are making increased use of apps for smartphones and tablet PCs., the UK-based company's online arm, actually plans to reduce its overall number of mobile applications, offering three such tools at most.

Its existing stable of applications have secured 2m downloads across a variety of devices to date, and Tesco Finder, which provides store and product details, receives up to ten searches per second.

Tesco also runs apps tied to its Clubcard loyalty scheme, and another service, where consumers who photograph a bottle of wine using a smartphone can access tasting notes and information.

Current initiatives include establishing a presence on Google's Android operating system, although the fact this platform is open source, and the range of handsets it features on, yields certain obstacles.

"You have to create lots of different screen sets for it," Nick Lansley, Tesco's head of research and development said, according to New Media Age. "With Apple the template is standardised."

A further area of focus is Apple's iPad, and Tesco has already built an app containing recipe advice, and allowing shoppers to place orders as they would via the web.

"The iPad is a really nice example of the fourth screen," Lansley added. "This is where we're going, especially as tablets get cheaper."

More specifically, he suggested the advent of new gadgets must lead to an integrated, rather than fragmented, experience.

"M-commerce is part of a holistic journey to improve the entire online experience," said Lansley.

Metro, the German firm, has constructed a Future Store in partnership with organisations like Coca-Cola and IBM, through which to trial potential innovations.

"Our store was created as a 'living lab'", Dr Gerd Wolfram, managing director of Metro Systems, said.

"We test new shopping concepts with our staff and customers, and if they are good enough we bring them to our other stores."

Earlier this month, Metro unveiled two apps, targeted at consumers and commercial cash-and-carry clients respectively.

"This allows us to press ahead with the development of the mobile shopping concept for the retail industry," said Wolfram.

"For many of our customers, the mobile phone has become an essential tool for their daily lives."

Elsewhere, Royal Ahold, the Dutch chain, has rolled out smartphone and iPad apps covering its US ecommerce site Peapod, with the latter appliance boasting search functionality and special deals.

"We are excited to expand our technology to the tablet platform," said Thomas Parkinson, Peapod's chief technology officer.

"Our customers are tech-savvy and demand smart, engaging and well-made solutions to simplify their lives. We think the Peapod iPad app will satisfy that need."

Last year, convenience store group 7-Eleven also introduced apps linked to its Slurpee beverages brand in the US, and an augmented reality app in Hong Kong.

Data sourced from Marketing Week/Metro/Peapod; additional content by Warc staff