December 20, 2010, 4:09 PM

Buy.com’s iPhone app lets shoppers speak and scan to find items and compare prices

Consumers have downloaded the app nearly 20,000 times, the online retailer says.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Online discount retailer Buy.com has launched an app for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices that features two new mobile technologies: bar code scanning and voice recognition.

The app uses voice-recognition technology from MeMeMe Inc. to enable shoppers to speak into a device the products they are searching for and receive search results from Buy.com. The app also enables a shopper to scan bar codes of products to see if Buy.com, No. 32 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, offers a better deal than the store the consumer is in.

Consumers have downloaded the app nearly 20,000 times within a few weeks, says a Buy.com spokeswoman. "The average order size on our mobile app today is $316, while our web site average order size is $117," says Jeff Wisot, Buy.com’s vice president of marketing.

Shoppers can use the app to compare prices and buy 9 million products from outside retailers that sell through Buy.com’s Marketplace. App users can view product reviews and videos and access Buy.com’s Top Sellers, Deal of the Day, Weekly Specials and What’s Shakin’ lists, which include Buy.com items with the largest increase in sales rankings over the past 24 hours.

Most other comparison shopping apps do not have voice-based search. Google offers the technology on its apps for the iPhone and its own Android mobile operating system.

Still, Buy.com app faces competition from several price comparison apps with bar code scanning capabilities—many of which have beefed up their apps for the holidays and offer prices of items that are available across the web rather than at just one site like Buy.com’s.

Two million shoppers downloaded the updated version of ShopSavvy’s bar code scanning app in November alone, the company says.  ShopSavvy recently updated the app with a price-matching function that tells a consumer if a retailer will match a competitor’s price. The app has an inventory feature that places a blue dot by a retailer’s name on the price results page if an item is in stock. Consumers can use the app to view streaming short-term promotions aggregated from sources across the web, and exclusive deals for ShopSavvy users. The app enables consumers to add and share product photos and prices when shoppers come across a product, price or retailer that’s not listed in ShopSavvy.

Another bar code scanning company called Scanbuy Inc. says consumers generated 30 times more mobile bar code scans with its ScanLife app during Thanksgiving week this year than the same week a year earlier.  Apps such as ScanLife and ShopSavvy typically earn commissions on sales or clicks they deliver to retailers.

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