There’s An App For That: How Mobile Is Changing The Face Of Retail

The following is a guest post by Beth Hrusch, Senior Editor at Interact Media, a business blog writing service that teaches writing tips and best practices.

There’s An App For That- How Mobile Is Changing The Face Of RetailIt’s no secret that, in today’s self-serve world, consumers are becoming increasingly empowered by easy access to information.  In many cases, answers are now only a click away.  So, it was only a matter of time before on-the-go consumers started demanding the same convenience from their mobile devices.  Given the fact that about 85% of all U.S. households own at least one mobile phone, it’s not surprising that mobile is fast becoming the search tool of choice– particularly for people making purchasing decisions.

Retailers are starting to feel the effects.  According to Forrester’s Research, consumers who research products online before making an offline purchase affect over $500 billion in sales a year.  Consumer behavior is influenced by the information they’re able to find on their own, on the go.

Mobile puts the power of information into consumers’ hands, even as they’re standing in the store aisle.  This opens up new possibilities for shoppers– even those who aren’t yet comfortable with actually purchasing from their mobile devices.  Comparison shopping and searching for products by phone, for example, are high-value, low-risk activities that people curious about mobile shopping can start out with.

Interested in becoming a more informed shopper?  Consider the following mobile apps that aim to improve your shopping experience

1. ShopSavvyThis app allows users to comparison shop right in the store, by scanning a product’s bar code using a camera phone.  It then finds the lowest prices online as well as at local retailers, searches coupons, and actually lets users make purchases.  With over 40 million scans reported each month, this is one of the most popular shopping apps on the market today.  ShopSavvy is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Nokia phones.

2. FastMall This app is a resource for mall shoppers.  It provides interactive maps of mall stores and restrooms, gives the quickest routes to stores, and even helps consumers remember where they parked their cars.  You can also make lists and get coupons.  It’s available on the iPhone and iTouch.

2. GroceryIQ A handy app that allows you to create and organize grocery lists, scan products and save lists of frequently purchased items.  Coupon users will appreciate being able to access and share coupons. Shoppers can also take photos of bar codes to add items to their lists and create lists of frequently or previously purchased items.   Available on the iPhone and iTouch.

4.    Google ShopperGoogle has joined the mobile retail game with this app, currently available for Android.  The Shopper lets you inquire about product information using your phone’s camera. It recognizes bar codes and saves your search history so you always have it available.  A couple of neat features—it can recognize visual data, such as book covers and video game cases, and you can speak the name of the product rather than scan or type it in.

5.    Yowza Ever wonder what coupons are available for stores near you, wherever you are?  Yowza  uses GPS to determine your location, then sends you coupons for nearby stores.  Just set the distance parameters for anywhere from 1 to 50 miles.  This app started out for users of the iPhone and iTouch, but is now available for use on the BlackBerry, Android and Palm.

Apps like these put more power into the hands of consumers, as they allow shoppers to determine who has the best deals quickly, conveniently and on their own.  So, should mobile commerce have retailers worried?  It depends on how willing they are to embrace, and even profit from, the new technology.  As Alexander Muse, founder of Big in Japan and developer of ShopSavvy, has said: “They realize, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But if I stay out of the conversation, I never win.”

And consumers might well say the same thing about themselves.