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Walk 100 yards north, turn right, enter store
Product locating and comparison site ShopLocal offers a mobile service that enables a shopper in a store to compare products. If there’s a better deal elsewhere, the service will lead the shopper from the store she’s in to another nearby.
M-commerce sites and services are popping up, and many e-retailers and other e-commerce players such as comparison shopping sites are keeping a watchful eye. A new development among these sites and services bears particular scrutiny: A handful of companies are employing a strategy that encourages shoppers to access mobile offerings while the shoppers are in stores.
ShopLocal is one company pioneering product locating and comparison via mobile devices. Its mobile offering is part of a service called Where, from mobile technology vendor uLocate. Shoppers can download the Where application via a text message from uLocate.
The application works with global positioning satellite phones, showing shoppers search results that contain not only product, pricing and retailer information but also GPS-enabled maps that direct them step-by-step to stores.
Where, which also includes information and directions for any number of locations such as restaurants and ATMs, costs $2.99 per month and is available to users who have phone plans with telecommunications providers Alltel, Boost or Sprint Nextel.
It cost ShopLocal only the time of some employees-who provided Where access to the company’s platform and data via its application program interface-to become part of the Where service. It joined Where in September and earns revenue from its mobile offering by receiving a small share of Where’s monthly consumer subscriptions. So far ShopLocal’s part of the service has had a couple thousand users, the company reports.
ShopLocal admits getting users for its mobile service will be an uphill battle. “Use of mobile technology in retail is low,” says Patrick Flanagan, ShopLocal’s director of product management who heads up the company’s mobile efforts. “Americans are not widely using their phones and other mobile devices for Internet access, so the potential user base right now is small.”
Still, the company is hopeful. “The usefulness of the mobile phone is becoming a lot greater,” says Bob Armour, chief marketing officer at ShopLocal. “Though we have not yet seen a ton of pick-up in use of our mobile product, we think it is coming, and the product fits the need.”