In the grocery industry today, cell phones as a tool of commerce are largely used to show promotional text messages and coupons. But their potential goes well beyond that.
In other retail sectors with higher-ticket products, consumers are already using cell phones to place orders and, to a much larger extent, to do “pretailing” — browsing the Web to find discounts, product information, the closest store or the best price — according to Hung LeHong, research vice president at Gartner, Stamford, Conn.
Moreover, with the advent of “smart phones” such as Apple's iPhone, “we're going to see an increase in specialized applications on mobile phones that will help with shopping,” said LeHong.
Some examples of these applications:
In Japan, cell phones are already equipped to scan 2D bar codes on signs and packaging that call up information and offers.
Phones with the SnapTell application, such as the iPhone, can take pictures of a product and then retrieve reviews and price comparisons.
The ShopSavvy application, built into the G1 smart phone from T-Mobile, uses the phone's camera to scan the bar code of a product and retrieve pricing information.
At its new Future Store in Toenisvorst, Germany, Metro Group is testing a software application that turns a customer's cell phone into a scanning and information device.
Near Field Communication (NFC)-equipped phones, common in Japan, allow shoppers to use the phone as a payment instrument, like a contactless debit card.