An App for That, Too: How Mobile Is Changing Shopping

These Six Products Give Retailers a Reason to Be Excited About the Platform

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NEW YORK ( -- 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

WHAT IT DOES: With this app, users can comparison shop by scanning a product's bar code with a camera phone. ShopSavvy finds the lowest prices online and at nearby brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as coupons, and lets users make transactions. Last month, ShopSavvy reported more than 42 million scans. Available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Nokia phones.

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

WHAT IT DOES: Using GPS to determine shoppers' locations, Yowza delivers coupons to nearby stores. Users can set the parameters between 1 mile and 50 miles. The app boasts more than 1 million unique users on the iPhone and iPod Touch and an additional 4 million users through a syndication deal for BlackBerry, Android and Palm.

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

WHAT IT DOES: More of a mobile advisor than an application, RetrevoQ uses texts and tweets to dispense info. Shoppers can text 41411 or tweet @retrevoq including the make and model of the electronics product they're considering, and RetrevoQ will respond with advice on whether it's a good buy, a fair price, the price range available online for that product and a link to reviews at, a consumer-electronics shopping and review site.

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

WHAT IT DOES: This iPhone and iPod Touch app provides interactive maps of malls, highlighting elevators and the quickest route to stores, as well as helping shoppers find food vendors and remember where their cars are parked. A shake of the phone turns up the nearest restroom location. Shoppers can also make lists and access coupons.

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.

Launched: December 2009 by TheFind

WHAT IT DOES: Shoppers can find which stores carry the products they're looking for and where those stores are located, as well as compare prices with nearby retailers and online retailers. The app will even calculate the driving cost to each store. It is available on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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

WHAT IT DOES: acquired the popular grocery app in January 2009 and released version 2.0 in December. The iPhone and iPod Touch app allows consumers to create grocery lists, organize them, access coupons and share lists with others. Shoppers can also take photos of bar codes to add items to their lists and create lists of frequently or previously purchased items.

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.

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