December 7, 2007, 12:00 AM

Bar code technology meets mobile web browsing

New mobile price comparison site Barcle enables shoppers in stores to use bar code numbers to retrieve product information and display prices and links to retail web sites.

Bar code technology has met mobile phone technology in a newly launched mobile price comparison site, Barcle.

Unlike most price comparison sites, the mobile shopping tool-located at Mobile.Barcle.com, with a standard web version at Barcle.com-uses bar code numbers to retrieve information on a product and display prices and links to retail web sites. Shoppers also can search by product name or product type. The company designed the site to be used in stores by consumers with Internet-enabled mobile phones and PDAs.

Through partnerships with more than 900 retailers, Barcle has access to 20,000 brands and 10 million products, the company says. It has negotiated access to pricing information, updated daily, from its merchant partners. Those retailers include Apple.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BestBuy.com, Buy.com, CircuitCity.com, Drugstore.com, Kmart.com, Kohls.com, Macys.com, Overstock.com, Target.com and TigerDirect.com.

The free service does not require consumers to create an account or answer any questions. A shopper standing in a store enters a product’s 12-digit barcode number into the site’s search window. The site returns prices for the product by retailer and then enables a shopper to link from the results to retailers’ web sites. Sites in some cases are mobile versions but in most cases are standard versions, which can be a significant hurdle to shoppers completing a purchase via their mobile phone, though they can note to purchase the product later via their PC.

“Without a question, if a partner has a mobile site it is less of a hassle and shoppers will be more likely to proceed with a purchase,” says Ted Baltuch, founder of Barcle, which earns commissions on purchases through a pay-per-click revenue-sharing model. “But while mobile still is very new, retailers are beginning to catch on. And we are getting the word out; Sears, Kmart, Target, J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart and other merchants are busily working on mobile sites, primarily as 2008 projects, and efforts by major retailers like these should push the rest of the market.”

Besides driving sales, Barcle is designed to be used by consumers in stores to show sales associates online prices that are better than the prices in a store, putting the consumer in a position to request a matching price. One shopper, Ben Siever, who wrote a response to an item on blog BerryReview.com, says of Barcle, “They had a [merchant partner] called TireRack, and I used Barcle to get the local Monroe [tire] store to knock $20 off the tires for my wife’s Caravan. I’ll be using Barcle for all of my shopping.”

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