Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mobile Shopping: Are we there yet ?

Mobile Shopping has arrived... atleast people are more receptive to the idea than a couple of years back. I could not locate the definition for Mobile shopping but did manage to locate one for Mobile Commerce which I believe is the next closest thing. Infact shopping would be a subset of mobile commerce. I wonder why no one has defined it on wikipedia yet.

Mobile shopping isn't gonna replace the existing ecommerce websites atleast not in the near future but it will serve as a bridge between the online world and the physical world (Stuff Scott always talks about). I started working on a checklist of stuff that I want to be able to do with my mobile device when I am in a physical store.

1) Piece of Mind factor:

When I am in a store and about to buy some thing, I want to be sure that the price I am paying is comparable in the online world. To make a decision I need to know
- The cheapest price for that item from a trusted website.
- The Shipping cost.
- The time for Shipping (Imp).
2) Price Match:
Lets face it, no physical store owner is gonna compete with an online price but will they be willing to come close to it ? what they will be ready to offer is a price match with a price from another physical store. Circuit city did offer this once (dont know if they still offer it). The mobile service must be able to pull down flyer or something similar from a physical store that I can use for a price match.
3) Speeeeeeeeed:
Whatever service I use for my mobile shopping needs MUST be quick. I dont want to stand in a store and wait for the more than a couple of minutes for results. I dont care about the slow data speeds on wireless networks or the sluggish SMS delivery. I want my results fast. Frucall (voice based) is the fastest way to get results compared to the other services out there today. It relies on a normal phone call and if I am not using Tmobile then I pretty much have no dropped calls :-). Yep, this even beats the SMS service(s) offered by other providers.
4) In Depth Info:
Most of the websites now offer reviews and product comparisons. I want to be able to access that information on my mobile phone while I am in a store and holding that product in my hand. Since I am viewing the information standing in a store, on a small LCD display, I do not want to sift through a lot of information. Give me the bottom line first and then let me look into details if I choose to. I like the Scanbuy Shopper approach of categorizing the product information. I get the basic info up front and then can navigate to through the diff categories. There is still a long way to go though in getting more information out to the end user.
5) Other Physical Stores:
I want to see a list of other stores close to the store that I am currently in. I dont always like to make online purchases. Buying it from a store has its benefits. Slifter does a bang up job in providing me with this information. They bring me results from big name stores and also some Ma and Pa shops in my zip code. To top it off, I can get a map and rough directions. Eventually, I would love to see a detailed map from my exact location to the stores exact location but for that we need better hardware and better access to the GPS features.
6) Ability to Place an order:
If I like a deal or offer being presented to me on the phone, I should have the ability to place an order for that item (add it to a remote shopping cart or even go through and buy it). This can be tough to implement technically as security is a major concern but I am sure we will see more and more of this feature. A few workarounds do exist though. The Pricegrabber wap site ( does allow you to call the store and place an order, I am sure other sites do too. From applications, there are a few apps like Amazon-Onthego that use the remote shopping cart feature of Amazon Ecommerce service. There is still a long way to go though.
7) Targetted Deals:
If I am looking to buy a digital camera, I would like suggestions to be sent to me on my phone (or by email) detailing products that match my requirements, the differences between them (pros and cons) and also where I can get the product at a decent price. I know this borders on the realm of advertising but if its targetted to my needs then I as a user dont mind it at all. Imagine, I am at a store and I pick up a digital camera and browse through the details of that product (prices, reviews etc) on my cell phone but I am not sure about if I want to buy this. I should be able to click on a button that says "Suggest Alternatives". I should get back a list of products that match close to the specifications of the original camera with pricing and other details about that product (most important - differences).

There is a good number of services that offer mobile shopping experience to the end user. I am listing out a few that I am aware of and played around with. I am pretty sure I am missing out a lot of them (Let me know).

SMS Based:

WAP Based:

Voice Based (Phone Call):

Downloadable Apps:

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