Wall St. Journal article on checking prices with a smart phone

by SteveBayle on December 16, 2009

Today’s WSJ has an article entitled

…  this is shaping up to be the first app-powered Christmas. Compared with last year, there was a 77% increase in downloads of shopping and shopping-tool apps for Apple Inc.’s iPhone on Black Friday, according to ad-exchange company Mobclix Inc., which tracks such usage. ShopSavvy said its app for the iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android operating system was used 18 million times over the long Thanksgiving weekend, compared with about one million times on a regular day.

Some retailers previously tried to withhold product information and prices from third-party shopping sites. But as competition with low-price Web sites has increased, traditional retailers have started changing their tune. Some, including Best Buy, now allow app developers to tap directly into a live database of products, prices and availability.

Interestingly enough, the king of online retail, Amazon, forbids mobile phone developers to access their API to Amazon’s pricing, ratings and reviews!

However, just having an API isn’t enough:

“The dirty little secret is that retail inventory systems aren’t that accurate,” says NearByNow CEO Scott Dunlap. Without the extra step of calling, “you’re setting up a consumer for disappointment,” he says.

I’ve found from painful experience that this is all too true. After researching a product on line and going to the store to buy it I have found that while they thought they had one in stock, they actually didn’t have any when they checked again.
Nevertheless, the smatrphone is making consumers smarter, though the focus of all these apps seems to be purely on price comparisons, rather than decision support on what product to buy.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Giuseppe Taibi December 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Definitely true that most people are using their smartphone for checking price. Why? Because there are some apps that do that fairly well. But I don’t believe that this is the only possible use of smartphones for shopping. Just like smartphones’popularity was low until the iPhone hit the market, the same applies to any other product. Get it right and users will come. And this is 100% true for RedLaser, too:
“Co-Founder Jeff Powers says that though the app hit the market in May, it wasn’t getting any traction. After releasing an update to the app which made it “actually work”, according to Jeff, they saw a dramatic increase in sales. This was despite the fact that they did nothing different upon the re-launch and got almost zero press pickup when they updated the app. The hypothesis is that this came entirely from word-of-mouth sales, which is probably a good bet.”

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