Retail powerhouse Amazon is offering a free iPhone application that, in addition to accessing and purchasing products from a store, allows you to photograph the item. If it is sold on Amazon, you’ll receive an email with a link to buy the product. The service, called Amazon Remember, takes the posted pictures to a cloud where real people review them and match the pictures with products. The inclusion of real people into the process may greatly reduce the amount of errors that occur in other barcode scanning applications. While Amazon already offers an iPhone-optimized web site, this mobile application is slicker, faster and it provides more product information on one screen.
For Blackberry users, mobile shopping is provided by Digby — a company that allows retailers to quickly set up stores accessible to the more than 250 million Blackberry users. To make it even more enticing, Digby claims most purchases can be made in under 30 seconds. Now, the platform is being adopted by retailers to go beyond simple access to products. For example, it offers an SMS alert feature that sends special offers and gift ideas for those hard-to-shop for people.
Though still small in terms of market penetration, the new G1, running on the Android platform, is already creating a stir. ShopSavvy, developed by the company Big in Japan, allows users to scan barcodes and compare prices while shopping in a store. The application also provides links to online retailers as well as pricing from stores nearby based on GPS readings. The application won first prize at the Android Developer Challenge and was a featured application when T-Mobile launched the phone in the US and UK — it was downloaded over 10,000 times the day the Android Marketplace opened.
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with a consumer’s ability to price check in stores. One user reported two experiences using ShopSavvy. The first happened when he looked up a product price and then drove to the nearest Sam's Club to buy the product. When he arrived, the price in the store was higher than reported. The consumer used the application to show a manager the difference. While the manager decided to match the price, he was confused by a consumer’s ability to access such information. Later that day, things got worse at Target. While scanning a product, the consuer was approached by an employee and told that barcode scanning was against Target's shopping policy. The consumer contacted Big in Japan, who followed up with Target only to find that the company has no stated policy against in-store barcode scanning.
As always, new technologies lead to new behaviors that can impact how business is done. And since it’s the season to shop, why not try out a new way of checking off your gift list? You may just find yourself saving time and money.