Sprint this month has begun to offer a service called GPShopper's Slifter on some of its phones. The technology allows consumers, based on their location, to source price and availability of products in real time at nearby stores in the Slifter network. A consumer looking for, say, a printer at an electronic retailer who found it out of stock (or looking for a better deal elsewhere) could search for printers. Slifter will locate a nearby store with a printer on sale and present the price. It will also map the location.
So far, Slifter, which costs $1.99 a month, culls more than 85 million products at some 30,000 retail stores nationally that sign up for the service, including some of the nation's leading chains, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Staples and Sports Authority. Even smaller stores, such as a Manhattan yoga studio, are listed. Inventory is updated nightly. "You can find the best deals in town even if you don't know where you are," said GPShopper founder and CEO Alex Muller.
A Sprint spokeswoman declined to say how many subscribers were signing up for the service, although she said, "We're seeing consumer uptake." Sprint is not advertising the product to consumers.
But its impact could spell significant changes for the retail industry. "The more information available to the consumer, the smaller the profit margin for the retailer," said Roger Entner, senior VP-communications sector, IAG Research.
Eric Beder, a retail analyst at Brean, Murray & Barett, said Slifter initially is likely to appeal to "the comparative shopper and the frugal." However, long term, he said it's one of "all the little bits and pieces that are reshaping retail."
In addition to providing competitive information, Slifter is using its application for search-style advertising. One marketer, Nikon, has been testing the service. Liz Fisk, account executive, ID Media, which handles Nikon's media buys, said Nikon does not sell cameras on its website and relies on retailers for sales. Last holiday season, a banner campaign for the S9 camera targeting early adapters of Slifter had a 38% click-through rate. Of those, 15% clicked to find retailers and maps to their locations -- which means thousands of consumers were given information about where the camera was available for sale.
Nikon recently launched a second campaign for its D40 model, said Ms. Fisk. Now that Sprint is offering the application, she said, she expects the click-through rates to skyrocket. She did not have any specifics on how many click-throughs and maps were linked to actual sales.
Sprint has tested other GPS-based services, including one focusing on apartments for rent, which costs $42.99 a month, and one for recently sold homes priced at $4.99 a month. One added benefit of the service is its ability to become a mobile gift registry of sorts: Those desiring a present can send the information to friends and family.