Shopping apps and the rise of m-commerce

The rise in the use of m-commerce apps has been significant in recent years as more and more consumers pick up smartphone devices and the idea of shopping from your portable device is better understood.

If you have a smartphone or a tablet then you will doubtlessly have explored the app download service which it supports and perhaps tinkered with a few games. However, if you have yet to take the plunge and actually use an app to make a purchase then it will probably be sensible to discuss how this works, what the risks are and why you might start shopping from your gadget more often.

The best shopping apps are typically those developed by established retailers, because they have the expertise and funding available to make the experience as good as possible.

This is particularly good news for existing customers who have already carried out online shopping with a retailer that offers a smartphone app. The reason for this is that you will often be able to log into the equivalent app with your existing account details, which makes ordering and payment far easier.

A solid shopping app should be able to offer all of the same features that you would find on the full site, which includes searchable catalogues of products across various categories. Not every app will necessarily live up to expectations, but you can use your smartphone`s app download platform to read user reviews and find out which are the best.

If all else fails you could decide to simply use your phone`s browser to visit the retailer`s site, although if it lacks optimisation for touchscreen devices then you could have a tough time completing transactions.

Some people have concerns about using shopping apps or smartphones in general to make payments, because there are concerns over the security of this type of feature. As a general rule, if you trust a retailer to handle your details with care when shopping from a laptop or PC then you can also be confident that their systems will keep you safe when using an official mobile app which they have developed.

Using mobile shopping apps you can buy everything from the weekly food shop to the latest video games and movies. You can even order takeaway food to be delivered to your door and a whole host of other services that do not require you to jump on a dedicated PC to access.

With the best mobile phone deals making smartphone ownership even more affordable, it makes sense to take advantage of the various shopping apps as soon as possible. You can organise your groceries during the morning commute or pre-order a Blu Ray before it hits the shops when you are sitting in a cafe or bar. If you want more flexibility to your life as a consumer then shopping apps will give it to you!

Is the threat from mobile price comparison apps over-hyped?

I’ve picked up on a few articles recently in the likes of WSJ and TechCrunch in particular, suggesting that the rise of mobile price comparison apps has finally come of age:

“How brick and mortar stores are going to be able to personalize and make the in-store shopping experience unique is through data, in my opinion. It’s no longer about creating a mobile web site or offering coupons; the experience centralizes around making customers feel as if they are being treated like a VIP just by walking into a store. And how brick and mortar stores are going to do that is the same way Amazon was able to create a business out of personalized e-commerce.

“Some retailers are attempting to use video and heatmaps to try to see how people shop, what they are buying and more. But this data is limiting because while stores can figure out what is working when it comes to placement, advertising, and marketing of products in-store, retailers still don’t know who is buying and how to get them to return.

“Personalization really gets interesting with transaction data. Shopkick recently teamed up with Visa to allow consumers a way to receive rewards points for retailers at the point of sale when they use their Visa credit cards. This is part of closing the redemption loop...Thus far start-ups, tech companies and credit card companies have started to use transaction data as a way to close the redemption loop and drive future purchases but this is relatively new to brick and mortar retailers.”

And of course Bay’s PayPal are getting in on the act by teaming up with high street retailers “to create a suite of tools and technologies that help use technologies to level the playing field when it comes to data” according to PayPal’s Anuj Nayar.

So much for the TechCrunch view of the subject. To add value to their answer I asked the question ‘Is the threat from mobile price comparison apps over-hyped?’ on the G+ community. Here are a few edited responses to date that have come in which underline that this trend is certainly something to watch out for in 2012, hyped or not:

  • “In my opinion there is more a trend than a threat, the search for better pricing and offers for all kind of items either by the web or any other means.” Daniel Suzuki, Consultor, Bufete Tecnologico Latinoamericano, S. C.
  • “Retailers also need to understand what other value streams the act of ‘scanning’ has within a retail environment. If 500 products are all tagged appropriately, retailers can gain insight to what was scanned, when, and where (sometimes even by who.)” Barry Hurd, Managing Director, 123 Social Media
  • “For all high ticket items, anything over $100, consumers already do price comparisons on the internet before they even go to a retail store. So, if they are in the store, looking at a product they have a high interest factor and their mobile app will only make them a more educated consumer.  They can then use this knowledge to ensure they are getting a good/fair deal from the Main Street retailer.  It is up to the retailer to ensure that they don’t lose a willing and able consumer.” David Lieber, Staff Product Manager, Qualcomm
  • “..the better question is how does the high street respond to a marketplace with reduced overheads, reduced staffing costs and easy access for a significant proportion of the populace FRONTED by comparison sites that direct the consumer to the best place to get the cheapest deal.” Michael Strefford, Director, JoinedUp Consultancy
  • “Mobile based purchasing more than doubled this holiday and was over 10% of the online purchase on several days, so the question of impact is not over hyped as this is now ongoing..this is part of the broader effect of easy access to price and product information. We have now seen the effect in the strong pricing stance of retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy who both went out of their way to ensure that their offline pricing was “in the top box” when compared online, or else fled to exclusive and therefore non-comparable sale items.” Robert Heiblim, Co-Founder & Principal,  BlueSalve Professional Consulting