Comparison shopping within the four walls of a bricks-and-mortar store is one of the pillars of mobile commerce. Wherever they may be, consumers armed with mobile phones, whether smartphone or conventional, have access to prices and information on millions of products-including the prices of products at retailers other than the one whose store they may be in at the time.
Google Inc. just made mobile comparison shopping even easier for users of iPhones and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. When consumers with these smartphones type in a product query at Google.com and then click on Shopping to refine the results, the search engine presents a Google Product Search results page optimized for the mobile devices.
The page showcases product information, prices, retailers, whether retailers of the products accept Google Checkout or offer free shipping, and customer ratings and reviews from around the web. And page functionality enables consumers to list results by price range, product rating, brand and retailer.
“Whether you’re trying to decide between two digital cameras while you’re in a store or checking out prices for a new product that you’ve just seen on TV, Google Product Search for mobile helps you make better-informed shopping choices,” says Rob Stacey, a software engineer on the Google mobile team. “Say you’re in a store and having a hard time deciding between two products. Instead of waiting to go home to check the Internet for ratings and reviews, you can get all of this information right there on the spot.”
Mobile comparison shopping, however, is a double-edged sword for multichannel retailers. On the one hand, it can lead a shopper out of a competitor’s store and to a retailer’s store or e-commerce or m-commerce site. On the other hand, if the retailer is the competitor in that scenario, it just lost a customer.
“This gives consumers a buying advantage when shopping in a store for price-sensitive products, which in today’s times are almost anything we buy,” says Mark Simon, vice president of industry relations at Didit, a search engine marketing firm. “Retailers will need to be on guard every waking minute-if they thought their store was a shelter from the cutthroat world of search engines, they will be in for a rude awakening.”