Shopping From Your Mobile Phone

GigOm has an article about mobile phones and shopping titled…

Listen Up: Mobile Retail Isn’t Just About Apps

…that cites that eBay expects $1.5 billion in mobile sales this year, and that Amazon mobile site traffic is second only to eBay. The nature of sales on eBay, which are through auctions that require constant monitoring, don’t suprise me, but eBay sales are not normal retail transactions. I personally do not understand why mobile sales would be better than desktop web-based sales because there is nothing special about on-line purchases that require using a mobile device.

If you don’t own a computer and a mobile phone is your only connection to the Internet, then you may use a mobile phone to shop, otherwise, who needs to buy retail items right there on a phone? A connection between mobile phones and retail shopping may exist in research. Products like ShopSavvy make it easy to scan product bar codes and find the lowest prices. I use Amazon’s app for Android as a product database. If I see something that I may be interested in buying, I use the Amazon app to scan the barcode and store the information in the Remembers section, but I may not necessarily purchase the product from Amazon.

Another form of shopping that I think is a good fit for mobile phones are take out food orders. Pei Wei has a very nice web application that provides their menu and allows one to submit a take out order. Other apps like the UrbanSpoon, which one can use to find restaurants, and Fandango that provides movie show times, are perfect fits for mobile phones that are associated with shopping but don’t necessarily provide a shopping experience, though you can buy movie tickets for some theaters with Fandango.

A final twist to shopping via mobile phone is using the phone as a gift card. Target has a web application for mobile phones that presents a bar code associated to a gift card balance, which the check-out clerk can scan on the register. Starbucks provides the same function in their Starbucks Card Mobile app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. You can use the Starbucks app to see your card balance, add money to the card, and present a bar code for the Starbucks store to scan. Currently the Starbucks Card Mobile app only works in a select number of Starbucks locations around Seattle.

A full range of shopping experiences are available on mobile phones, but the useful shopping apps provide something that is best done on mobile phones. If you want to know whether a store has a good price on a product, you can find out using ShopSavy. If you are interested in going to a movie, you can find out what is showing near you in Fandango, and buy tickets using your phone. If you want a cup of coffee you can go to Starbucks, and pay for it using your phone. All of these are ad hoc situations that occur while you are away from a desktop computer, in which case the smartphone adds value by providing the power of the Internet when you are away from your desk.