App of the Week: H-E-B Delivers with a Top Notch App for Shoppers

The H-E-B store app really does deliver with robust features and a simple interface.
The H-E-B store app really does deliver with robust features and a simple interface. H-E-B screenshot
App: H-E-B Grocery Store App
Platform: iPhone/Android
Website: HEB Mobile
Cost: Free

Grocery shopping is a joy for some and torture for others. There have been numerous apps come out to try and make the process easier from list-making tools to grocery delivery services. H-E-B is the undisputed king of groceries in Texas and its app offering only adds to that legacy.

One of the problems most store apps encounter is the inability to be all things to all people. Ultimately, some feature is going to be left off just as some product isn't going to make the shelf. Who knew someone would want loquat jam? H-E-B's app doesn't have everything, but it is intelligently edited and what it doesn't have can be found through add-ons.

Best Feature

If you have ever tried to navigate an airplane-hangar-sized store (like the H-E-B at Interstate 10 and Bunker Hill), you know that even if you have been there 100 times, there will be one product that is impossible to locate. In fact, I discovered this app on a trip to H-E-B and could not find some weird ingredient for a recipe. In what has to be the most useful feature ever to hit a grocery store, the app tells you exactly where your product is in the store of your choosing. Admittedly, it would be nice if it pointed you to the exact spot on the rack (Aisle 9, middle left, third shelf), but just the aisle with a photo of the product is quite a lot to keep you from wandering for 20 minutes looking. A nice addition might be an "out of stock" warning.

Helpful Option

I'm old school in my list keeping for groceries. I write it down and even put it in order of the store because I hate getting over to the dairy only to see oranges mixed in with milk and eggs on my list forcing me to trudge across two football fields worth of aisles and shopping cart traffic to get them. But, H-E-B's list has me changing my ways, mainly because I can keep a recurring list of items I buy frequently right there in the phone and allow me to check them off as I pick them up.

I Don't Use It, But...

I'm not a coupon guy, but lately I've seen digital coupons as a real option and H-E-B's app has them a-plenty. And because you can choose them and redeem them at the checkout stand without having to print anything or carry around one of those crazy little coupon file books, I'm in. Go through the extensive list, pick what you want and then use a QR code in your phone to redeem them all. That's it. No more worrying about expiration dates or irritating people behind you in line. Pretty amazing.

Probably Could Have Left This Out

Recipes are great, but does H-E-B really need a whole recipe section in the app? With everything from The Joy of Cooking and Epicurious to The New York Times Cooking section in app form, this feels like overkill. However, if you do use it, being able to drop the ingredients from a recipe onto your shopping list with a tap is pretty wicked.

Additional Items

There are a few off-app items like the pharmacy and curbside pickup that require you go through a different app to get to them. Eventually, I imagine curbside could be integrated, but I do understand the need to keep the pharmacy separate, especially given the fact that they allow you to manage your prescriptions through the phone requiring quite a bit of security. The store locator is awfully handy as well.

Needs Some Work

The only negative to the app at all is the store location setting. Once you create an account, you set a home store location. But, if you decide to shop at another store, switching isn't terribly easy. You have to find the store on a map and then put in your user name and password to confirm. It's a clunky interface that assumes you shop at the same store all the time. That could be easier for sure.

What's Missing

There is a "Ship to Home" function that connects with H-E-B's website, but it's not really a great option for most who probably already use an app like Instacart or Freshly. It would be nice to see some partnering with third-party vendors that would allow for better integration for these kinds of services, but that might not be within H-E-'s business model.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is a tough app to beat if H-E-B is your grocery store of choice. It's easy to use, loaded with features and makes grocery shopping a whole hell of a lot easier. For those who hate to shop, this might make it a little more bearable.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke