July 6, 2011, 1:08 PM

ShopRunner takes to the streets

The shipping service soon will launch a mobile app aimed at shoppers in stores.

Lead Photo

The app lets users see products available online and in nearby stores.

ShopRunner, the fledgling shipping service designed to help retailers compete with the free shipping offers of Amazon.com Inc., is preparing to release a mobile app that could give retail chains with bricks-and-mortar stores an edge over web-only retailers like Amazon.

The ShopRunner 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 Toys ‘R’ Us, Sports Authority, PetSmart, AutoZone and Radio Shack.

The app, to be submitted this week to Apple Inc. for its approval, a process that typically takes a few weeks, will provide ShopRunner members access to all of the information they can access on the company’s web site, says Jonathan Pearl, ShopRunner chief information officer. The app initially will be available for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPod Touch; an Android version is on the way.

Consumers pay ShopRunner $79 for an annual membership that gets them free two-day shipping at 44 retailers. Consumers search for products on the web site or through the app; clicking on a Buy button takes them to the e-commerce site on the web or mobile site of the retailer selling the product. ShopRunner last week announced plans for a digital wallet and monthly subscriptions and said it expects 90 merchants will be using its service by year’s end.

ShopRunner members get full access to all of the mobile app’s functions, Pearl says, but nonmembers also can use it to access and search products from ShopRunner’s participating retailers. As on the web site, the ShopRunner app provides members with a single location for tracking their shipments from various ShopRunner retailers. Members also can generate a return label from within the app, which sends the label to the member’s e-mail address to be printed from a computer, Pearl says. ShopRunner offers free shipping on returns.

As ShopRunner’s first foray into the mobile channel, the company will carefully evaluate how consumers use the app and update it as necessary, Pearl says. “We want to see how people really are going to use the app,” Pearl says. “We want to understand how people are using the device, why they like the app and what they don’t like to help us build a better version.”

ShopRunner chose the mobile app over a mobile-optimized web site for a couple of reasons, Pearl says. “We felt that some of the functionality specifically around the marketplace and tracking packages was cleaner and easier to create in the app rather than in a mobile site,” he says.

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