Digby: An Easy, Secure Way to Shop on Your BlackBerry

Back in the early to mid-1990s, the Internet made it possible for you to shop ’til you dropped without ever having to hit the mall. Now, a new service called Digby is mobilizing that e-commerce experience by removing the tether that kept it locked to an Internet-connected PC.

The 18-month-old company operates “a mall where multiple retailers have set up stores,” CEO David Sikora told us. The difference is that the Digby mall resides on your BlackBerry and soon on your Windows Mobile device.

Digby pic.gifAccording to Sikora, Digby is built on two premises:

— The World Wide Web as we know and love it is not terribly compatible with a two-inch screen.
— Handheld devices are becoming more like computers and are capable of running full applications, not just browsing.

These premises, he said, led to the realization that e-commerce is an important use case for mobile devices. So Digby “wrapped them all together in a platform” that lets merchants create stores on mobile devices,” Sikora said.

To read more about Digby, including some of the big-name retailers that have set up shop in its mall, click continued.

BlackBerry owners can download the Digby app and start shopping. Because it’s an on-device application, Digby integrates with the handset’s resources, such as the address book. This, said Sikora, gets rid of nearly all the typing you’d have to do and creates an easy shopping experience that’s all point-and-click, except for entering your password.

Another benefit of BlackBerry integration – and this one’s really key – is that Digby can leverage the security that’s built-in to the BlackBerry. When Digby transports data, it uses RIM’s secure encrypted connections, which eliminates one of the major customer fears about buying stuff over a wireless connection.

If you don’t have a BlackBerry and still want to shop at the Digby mall, you won’t have to wait all that long. Windows Mobile will be the next platform to get access. In fact, the company has partnered with Alltel, which is integrating the Digby app with the BlackBerry Pearl and HTC Touch handset it sells. Sikora said his company is also “looking at” the iPhone and Google’s Android platform.

Digby has some 30-40 stores in its mobile mall including plenty of places to buy and send those last-minute gifts that you’ll forget about if you have to wait until you get home to order. Shopping includes FTD.com, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Red Envelope, Fossil, Godiva, Z Gallerie, Cooking.com, QuickGifts, Vermont Teddy Bear, Wine.com and, for the business shopper, Office Max.

For shoppers who can’t wait for delivery, Digby is working on a service that lets you click a few links on the site to see if the item you want is in stock in the local shop.

Convenience and quickness are both hallmarks of good mobile applications. Consumers will play a quick game, browse a news site or check their e-mail when they have a spare minute or two. If something takes too long to load or has too many steps, forget it.

Because it’s built on the idea that e-commerce is an important use case for mobile devices, the Digby service was created with an “optimized workflow and catalog.” Shoppers can go from store to store picking out the items they want from multiple retailers and toss them all into the same shopping cart, so the whole virtual shopping trip requires only a single transaction. One standard Digby held itself to when developing the system was that consumers have to be able to buy things in 60 seconds or less, Sikora said. He admitted that they wanted to set the standard at 30 seconds or less, but then realized that was just a little impractical.

You can check out an online demo of the Digby experience on the company’s Web site.