NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Mobile phones are fast becoming the way consumers find coupons, research products, compare prices and make purchases. It makes shopping easier for consumers, but that doesn't mean retailers are thrilled at the prospect of consumers consulting mobile phones from their aisles -- after all, does Best Buy want you to know that the item in your cart can be had cheaper at Amazon -- and purchased right now on your phone?
"There is fear, but it is the new reality," said Dan Butcher, a reporter at Mobile Marketer. "Retailers are becoming aware that consumers are using their phones in the store to make decisions. They're realizing that they need to support that platform."
Indeed, retailers who don't embrace the technology now will be left to play catch-up in the years to come. But there is reason for retailers to be excited about the shifting mobile landscape. Many of the mobile applications coming onto the market actually benefit bricks-and-mortar retail by improving the in-store experience or driving traffic to stores that are either nearby or boast the best deals.
There are dozens of retail-related mobile applications on the market today, making it impossible to highlight them all. Here are half a dozen that stand out for the impact they're having on the way consumers shop.
Launched: November 2008
by Big in Japan
WORTH WATCHING: Walmart is slated to soon open up its grocery pricing , meaning consumers will be able to quickly see if it has cheaper cereal than their local grocery chain. Retailers are realizing it can be advantageous to embrace apps. Said Big in Japan co-founder Alexander Muse: "They realize, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But if I stay out of the conversation, I never win."
|Launched: June 2009 by Greg Grunberg, an actor on "Heroes," and August Trometer, CEO- Thunderstone Media|
WORTH WATCHING: Some retailers fear easy access to coupons means full-price shoppers may become discount hunters. But Messrs. Grunberg and Trometer say it attracts a younger consumer base willing to spend more. Retailers using Yowza can also make near-instant updates to their offers, so items that aren't selling can be promoted and offers can be deleted when items are sold out.
|Launched: December 2009 by Retrevo.com|
WORTH WATCHING: Few retailers have the bandwidth or expertise to answer each and every consumer query on-premise, making this a welcome service. However, for those retailers like Best Buy or HHGregg that pride themselves on in-store expertise and count it as a differentiator, RetrevoQ levels the playing field.
|Launched: December 2009 by MindSmack|
WORTH WATCHING: The death of the mall has been touted over and over during the last decade. And while it's true that shoppers are turning to new formats or going online, all many of them want is a simpler shopping experience. Making mall shopping easier and more interactive through mobile apps has the potential to win over some consumers.
|THEFIND: WHERE TO SHOP|
|Launched: December 2009 by TheFind|
WORTH WATCHING: Mobile price comparison is going to become a bigger and bigger issue for retailers. While having the shopper in-store used to mean a better chance of clinching the sale, retailers now need to find creative ways to ensure they're not regularly bypassed for cheaper options.
|Launched: September 2008 by Free State Labs|
WORTH WATCHING: The day of the paper list is gone, as is the paper coupon, at least as far as millennials are concerned. As this group ages, starting careers and families, consumer package goods players and grocery retailers will be paying close attention to the way they shop. Mobile apps like this one have the potential to make shopping more interactive, easy and fun for these tech-savvy consumers.