Mobile commerce is a playground for innovative retailers, who are trying a wide array of technologies to make their mobile sites and apps stand out from the crowd and foster increased customer engagement and, ultimately, sales.
Amazon.com Inc. and web-only jeweler Ice.com, for example, are using augmented reality technology to wow customers. When a consumer using Amazon's Flow mobile app focuses her smartphone's camera on a product, the app automatically displays a window over the product with details and pricing. The app is a tool consumers can use in-store to see if they can get a better deal buying through Amazon. Ice lets shoppers "try on" rings and bracelets. A shopper taps the Try It On button on a product page in the Ice app and then lines up her finger or wrist via the smartphone camera with a ring or bracelet floating onscreen. She snaps a picture, adjusts the placement of the jewelry to see how the item will look, and can share that look with friends via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Buy.com incorporates voice recognition, bar code scanning and image recognition technologies into the search functionality in its smartphone app. Rather than have to type in a product name or details, an app user can speak, scan or snap to have the app search Buy.com, easing the process of mobile shopping.
Video has proven an effective selling tool online. Now Jewelry Television, ShopNBC and University Co-op Society are taking video to mobile, offering live streams. Jewelry Television and ShopNBC use the advanced web programming language HTML5 to let app users watch their TV channels on smartphones. University Co-op gives app users access to multiple webcams around the University of Texas, fostering a connection with shoppers through the live video and companion local news RSS feeds that might turn into sales of university gear.
Walgreen Co. uses GPS technology to heighten the m-commerce experience. It sends special coupons to customers who use GPS-based mobile check-in services like foursquare while at a Walgreens store.
Retailers making innovative use of mobile technologies are showing other merchants how m-commerce can be made easier and more enjoyable.
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