Once the business of the holidays is over, the retail industry gets back to its regular business. Expansions plans are announced, store closures are slated, executives get appointed and said executives attend critical trade shows where they are treated to new products and discuss big trends for the coming year.
Number one on that list is mobile shopping.
Dealnews met with Steve Yankovich, eBay's VP of Mobile,at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, to talk about the mobile shopping trend and the many ways it's helping us to be smarter consumers.
At eBay, mobile shopping tripled last year compared to 2009, with more than $2 billion in mobile sales, according to Yankovich. As a result, eBay keeps expanding the ways we can shop and the tools it's providing to help beyond just clicking and buying. eBay, he says, is angling to be the entry point for mobile shoppers, a kind of mobile commerce search engine.
To this end, eBay acquired bar code scanning app RedLaser, in 2010. Yankovich calls it "marketplace agnostic," since it directs shoppers to the lowest price, regardless of retail outlet. The Milo Local Shopping app lets you search for a specific product by name, and returns results that let you choose the retailer based on price and location.
Both RedLaser and Milo help save time and money. No more delaying a purchase in the store, coming home, going to the computer, conducting a search, comparing prices and returning to a retailer to make the purchase. It can all be done right there in the store, with the customer standing in the aisle clicking on a phone.
And this will likely become the dominant way to shop in the very near future.
In the past 12 months, if you used a smartphone to locate products, compare prices or make a purchase you're part of a rapidly growing group. According to research company Forsee Results, 11% of Internet shoppers said they made a purchase from their mobile phones during the holidays compared to just 2% the year before. We asked people at the mall what was keeping them from buying on their phones in this video:
The unique properties of mobile shopping apps are also making it easier to buy. The eBay Fashion app, for example, lets you browse eBay shops by fashion category, pull up favorite looks and see similar items, and if you own an iPhone 4 or iPod Touch 4 there's a new feature that lets you actually try on something before you buy. Virtually of course.
The iPhone and Touch's front facing camera acts like a mirror, reflecting back your image trying on things like sunglasses. You can also use a photo of yourself to model selected items of clothing before buying.
We've seen these personal dressing room attempts before. The technology is still limited and it's difficult to know if apps like this help to create buyers out of browsers. But increasing mobile shopping isn't just about buying. Forsee reports the majority of shoppers who used their phones did so to compare prices (56%). Additionally, mobile shoppers compared products (46%), looked up product specifications (35%), and read reviews (27%). They did all of that in much greater proportion than actually buying anything via their phones. For now, at least.