Mobile Shopping Saves Time, Money
Using your phone for shopping, which the wireless industry has dubbed mobile commerce, offers much of the same convenience as Web-based shopping. You can search for items and often complete a purchase, without having to search on your computer.
Wireless providers and retailers are taking several approaches to mobile commerce. Consumers can order items through their mobile Web browsers. In most cases, the retailer's Web site will recognize the shopper is using a mobile device, and will present a streamlined version of its site that is formatted specifically for cell phones. For instance, the site's graphics will take less time to load, and the site won't use animation or other design elements that might not load properly on your phone.
In addition, many leading retailers are offering specialized smartphone apps that are also designed to offer a fast and convenient shopping experience to mobile users. Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon.com, Best Buy and QVC are just a few of the many retailers with popular smartphone apps.
Most apps offer text suggestions while you're entering a search term or keyword, to reduce the number of letters you need to enter. For popular items, such as current DVDs, consumers who have stored their payment information with a retailer can often complete a purchase within a minute or two.
Users can also register for mobile commerce coupons and other special deals from merchants eager to prevent mobile users from shopping with competitors.
eBay said mobile purchases more than tripled during the 2009 holiday season and included a $19,000 boat. The company said more than 6 million consumers have downloaded its iPhone app.
Mobile phones also offer effective and popular ways to compare prices without having to drive around to different stores or to search several Web sites. A range of smartphone apps including PriceGrabber, TheFind, Barcode Scanner and others, allow users to check prices at a variety of online and physical retailers.
It's becoming more and more common for savvy consumers to use price comparison apps while they're in stores, either to see if there's a better deal a short drive away, or to negotiate a better price from the store they're in. With some applications, smartphone users can use their phone's camera to scan an item's bar code and compare prices with online and nearby stores.
Many leading retail chains promise to match or beat competitor's prices, and if you can show the availability of a better deal, they'll match it and save you a trip to the competing store.
Depending on the size of the purchase, even stores without formal price-match policies are willing to reduce their price, rather than lose a sale altogether. Many national retailers claim they don't allow customers to haggle, but quietly look the other way if it happens. You may have to deal with a supervisor or manager to get a customized reduction, but if your phone is displaying a better deal, it doesn't hurt to try to bargain.
And just as e-commerce has improved from its early days, mobile commerce is expected to become faster and more convenient and the technology and user acceptance evolves.