July 31, 2011, 12:00 PM

ShopRunner runs up the ante in its free-shipping competition with Amazon

ShopRunner, the fledgling free-shipping service, is rolling out new features—including a mobile app that lets shoppers find products with free-shipping from participating retailers—to help both web-only and multichannel retailers compete against Amazon.com and its Amazon Prime free-shipping service.

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ShopRunner Inc., a fledgling free-shipping service, is introducing several new features—including a Buy Now widget that will let shoppers store payment and shipping information across multiple retailers, and an iPhone app that lets shoppers find participating retailers offering free shipping—as it seeks new ways to compete against the Amazon Prime free-shipping program from Amazon.com Inc.

ShopRunner, which was launched last fall by GSI Commerce Corp. and now operates independently following this year's acquisition of GSI by eBay Inc., is striving to build more value into its program to help convince more consumers to sign up for it, says ShopRunner president Mike Golden.

"No question, we'll see an increase in the frequency of orders from ShopRunner member consumers," he says. He notes that consumers who sign up for ShopRunner shop its participating retailers twice as often as before.

ShopRunner (see related story on page 22) expects to have 90 participating retailers this fall. Like Amazon Prime, it charges consumers $79 per year to get two-day shipping on all orders for no additional charge. ShopRunner is also introducing this summer an option that lets consumers sign up for a month at a time, at $8.99 per month.

The new Buy Now widget, due for release this summer, will use software developed by ShopRunner to store consumers' payment card information and shipping and billing addresses, and to process payment transactions, Golden says.

Shoppers will have the option to store their payment and shipping information in the widget for use across all participating ShopRunner retailers. ShopRunner will offer the widget to retailers for free, at least to start out, Golden says. If the Buy Now feature proves to increase conversion rates and sales for ShopRunner retailers, the company may begin to charge a fee for it.

The ShopRunner mobile app would enable a consumer inside a store to scan an item's bar code with her mobile phone to see which retailers participating in ShopRunner offer the item online or in nearby stores. That would keep the shopper away from offers from non-ShopRunner retailers, like Amazon, while directing them to nearby stores operated by such ShopRunner clients as Sports Authority, PetSmart and Radio Shack, Golden says.

The iPhone app, which ShopRunner hoped to release this summer after getting it approved by Apple Inc., will provide ShopRunner members access to the same information on the company's web site, says Jonathan Pearl, ShopRunner chief information officer. The app initially will be available for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch; an Android version is also on the way.

Consumers will be able to search for products available for the ShopRunner shipping program via the apps as well as directly on ShopRunner.com, where shoppers can click to the web sites of participating retailers. On their own e-commerce sites, participating retailers typically display a ShopRunner button in the checkout process to offer shoppers a free-shipping option.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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