There’s five minutes left in the eBay auction you’ve been watching all week. Suddenly, your boss calls you into an emergency meeting. Separated from your computer, you’ll never win that vintage Scooby Doo lunchbox.
Or will you? With more stores and online retailers launching mobile apps — that allow consumers to purchase items in just a few clicks using their mobile phone — it’s possible to shop from (pretty much) anywhere.
According to Catholic Online, in 2011 “the number of purchases made using mobile devices rose a staggering 172.9% over 2010.” Smartphone users are not just using their phones to compare prices and get directions to stores — they’re embracing their phones as instruments to simplify the total shopping experience.
eBay’s mobile app, advertised as “Go-shopping. Download the app,” allows registered users to bid on items whether they’re using an Android device, iPhone, iPad, Windows phone, or Blackberry.
By creating apps for all major devices, eBay provides users with a fast and easy way to bid on items — especially important because waiting for a slow mobile web connection might mean the difference between a winning or losing bid.
Colby Nichols, who in 2004 earned a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from The Art Institute of California — San Diego, doesn’t often purchase items via his smartphone. But he notes that companies are beginning to realize the importance of an easy-to-navigate and utilize mobile shopping experience.
“I really like Etsy's mobile site,” he states.
The website, known for its unique handmade offerings, has both an iPhone app and a simplified website for Android devices. The iPhone app even allows Etsy shop owners to manage their stores and get notifications when purchases are made.
“I think they really did a great job of representing their marketplace on a mobile device,” Nichols adds.
FINDING A BARGAIN
In addition to providing shopping flexibility, apps for mobile phones are helping shoppers to identify the best deals on items.
ShopSavvy5 uses a phone’s camera to read a product’s barcode, then displays a list of brick-and-mortar and online stores offering the product — complete with price. Users may even add products to the app’s list — snapping a photo and including the price to assist future users.
Decide.com helps users to predict the future prices of electronic devices. The app provides information such as the likelihood of a new model release and produce price history — allowing consumers to make an informed decision on whether to buy now or wait.
Touting the connection to it’s secure servers, Amazon.com’s mobile shopping apps allow iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry users to search and buy products with ease. Amazon Mobile for iPhone and iPad gives the extra bonus of letting users “compare prices and check availability instantly by scanning a barcode, snapping a picture, or typing your search.”
PERSONALIZING THE MALL EXPERIENCE
For smartphone users who want to mix app technology and in-store shopping, Point Inside allows retailers to connect with customers as they shop. The app provides instant notifications of offers personalized to the shopper, based on criteria such as past purchases or location within the store.
The app boasts “unique, patent-pending micro-location and indoor mapping technologies” that can pinpoint which section and aisle a customer is shopping in. Messages are then sent to the customer’s smartphone informing them of special offers or new products.
“Combined with understanding of the customers’ purchase intents from the shopping list, purchase history, and Point Inside’s engagement technology, retailers can now connect customers with highly relevant messages while they are inside the store shopping,” according to the company’s website.
For some mall locations, the app even includes a “remember where I parked” feature.
SECURITY ISSUES WITH MOBILE SHOPPING
As with any online purchase, mobile shopping can present security issues. Purchasing from well-known sites is recommended, and it’s advisable to make purchases via secure, encrypted connections. In other words, don’t make your big purchase on the free mall Wi-Fi.
Luc Cote, a 2008 Bachelor of Science in Game Art & Design graduate of The Art Institute of Portland, prefers to play it safe.
“I still prefer to buy as many things in person as possible. I'm uncomfortable keeping too much financial data on an item that would be relatively easy to get stolen.”
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.