Christmas Shoppers will be Using Apps

Nov 17, 2010 — Allan Pulga

According to the an October study conducted by Mobile Marketing Association, 59 percent of mobile consumers plan to use their phones for shopping and planning purposes this holiday season, and 64 percent plan to scout out deals on their phones before heading to the stores, reported Eric Zeman of InformationWeek (Nov. 10).

“People are using their cellphones to check product reviews online, compare prices and find nearby stores,” wrote Doris Hajewski in the L.A. Times (Nov. 12). “Retailers are slowly adapting to the technology, with some offering apps.”

With this year being the year smartphones truly went mainstream, more than ever, holiday shoppers will be bumping into each other in the mall, heads down, looking for the best deals via their phones.

“One-quarter of Americans who own smartphones plan to use them this year to look for gift ideas, compare prices and find items in nearby stores, according to a survey by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation,” wrote Hajewski. “Among people 18 to 24, 45 percent use phones for shopping.”

Hajewski notes the emergence of apps like:

  • Fast Mall, launched this fall, which has a voice recorder for identifying where you parked, gives you the mall’s bathroom locations and even guides you to particular stores based on your current location.
  • Point Inside, another geo-positioning app that provides mall maps on the spot.
  • Coupon Sherpa lists national chains alphabetically, providing coupons and special offers.
  • PriceGrabber has a bar code scanner, which brings up a list of other merchants offering the same item, allowing for an instant price comparison. Hajewski said it’s not that reliable, though: “The bar code scanner worked only one out of the six times when I tested it in Wal-Mart and Macy’s stores.”

Hajewski also points out that retailers are slower to adapt to the proliferation of shopping apps. This summer, Forrester Research reported that about 60 percent of retailers surveyed either had no mobile strategy or were in the early stage of development.

“About 35 percent of retailers had a special site that works with mobile browsers, and a third had an iPhone app. Android and BlackBerry apps were available for 8 percent of retailers,” Hajewski. The lag in retailer adoption may reflect an inability to convert app development into a solid ROI, so far: “Retailers told Forrester that mobile browsers generated just 2.8 percent of their website traffic last year and 2 percent of Internet revenue.”

To help retailers get a better idea of which apps matter, Houston Neal of (Nov. 15) put together a list of 5 Mobile Technologies Retailers Should Be Using Now:

  • Geolocation Apps: “A number of players have emerged on the scene (e.g. Gowalla, Kickball, MyTown, Loopt) but Foursquare leads the way,” Neal writes. “Foursquare gives you increased exposure on social media and the web. Every ‘check in’ gets pushed out to a user’s social network, including other Foursquare users, Twitter followers or friends on Facebook.”
  • ShopAlerts: Another geolocation app, ShopAlerts delivers text messages to consumers’ mobile phones when they enter a given business’ premises. Messages can be for promotions, discount codes, coupons and more, and since they’re sent via text, they work for the 196 million Americans that don’t own a smartphone.
  • Barcode Scanning: “According to ScanLife, mobile barcode scanning is up 700 percent in 2010,” Neal writes. “Apps like ShopSavvy, CheckPoints and ShopKick are all riding the waves of this trend, but RedLaser leads the pack with over 5 million downloads.”
  • Group Buying: Groupon, a 17-month-old company expected to generate over $500 million in revenue this year, may become the fastest growing company ever, Neal writes. “Groupon presents one deep-discounted deal at a time on their website. In order to receive the deal, a predetermined number of shoppers have to purchase it for the sale to become active. Herein lies one secret of Groupon’s success. To make sure a sale becomes active, shoppers will naturally promote the deal to friends, family and their social media network.”
  • Milo: “Milo may soon lay claim to the ‘disruptive innovation’ title in the retail industry. Their mission: ‘track every product on every shelf of every store in real-time.’ In other words the website shows you where a product is in stock, how much it costs at each location and how much it costs online. It’s the ultimate real-time price comparison tool.” It stands to disrupt the market, Neal says, by amplifying the already competitive dynamic between traditional brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce retailers.

Topics: Retail Operations, Mobile Industry, e-Commerce

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