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TMCNet:  Using a smart phone could make you a smarter shopper

[November 26, 2010]

Using a smart phone could make you a smarter shopper

Nov 26, 2010 (The Dallas Morning News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- If you need to justify a new phone purchase, here's a reason: Shopping today and the rest of the holiday season without a smart phone may cost you some bucks.

This Christmas, consumers can choose to get discounts delivered to their iPhone, Android and BlackBerry phones by retailers and app developers interested in personalizing their shopping trip.

The first time you collect points toward free gift cards for just walking into a store, or when you scan a bar code with your phone's camera and see where the item is sold online or nearby for less, it's a powerful feeling.

About 27 percent of American adults with a smart phone will use these devices to research or make holiday purchases, according to a survey by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation. That number jumps to 45 percent among those ages 18 to 24.

That kind of generational pull moved retailers and social-networking sites into action.

"The walls inside the stores are disappearing with every new device," said J.C. Penney chief marketing officer Mike Boylson. "In a perfect world, we'll be able to market specifically by person. We'll deliver them offers relevant to them." Retailers' apps are adding enhanced features such as user reviews, and stores are delivering special discounts through location-based social-networking sites Facebook Places and Foursquare. For example, when shoppers check into Facebook Places from a Macy's, their phone is sent offers for 10 percent or 20 percent off various items.

For retailers, it's a way to build customer loyalty.

Penney, Bath & Body Works and RadioShack are among retailers on Foursquare. RadioShack offers Foursquare users 10 percent off qualifying purchases. Penney offers $10 off $50 in purchases. At Bath & Body Works, it's a buy three, get two free offer.

"Mobile matters now. It's a way that retailers can win some battles this holiday," said Steven Dennis, president of Sageberry Consulting LLC.

Neiman Marcus has said mobile-device use represents as much as 10 percent of its Internet traffic as it has added new apps and turned its Christmas book into an Apple iPad application.

In the last 30 days, ideeli.com, a members-only online shopping site that competes with Neiman Marcus, has seen more than 369,000 mobile visits, or about 5 percent of its 7.1 million visitors. About 5 percent of orders were made through mobile devices, ideeli said.

Loyalty and comparison shopping apps are also quickly signing up local stores.

Last week, 242 Target stores, including six in Dallas, joined Shopkick, a location-based shopping app that rewards shoppers for visiting stores. (The stores are at Medallion Shopping Center, Cityplace, 16731 Coit Road, 6419 Skillman St., 9440 Marsh Lane and 13131 Montfort Drive) Many Best Buy stores also are on Shopkick and local stores operated by American Eagle, Macy's, Sports Authority, Wet Seal and Arden B. are scheduled to join by February. Several Simon Property Group malls elsewhere are on Shopkick and the company's Dallas area malls will begin participating early next year.

"The No. 1 challenge for retailers is to increase foot traffic," said Shopkick chief executive Cyriac Roeding.

Purchase rates vary by merchandise category but are better in stores than online, he said. Shoppers in an apparel store buy something 20 percent of the time; that jumps up to 95 percent for people in a supermarket.

That's why rewarding foot traffic is so important.

"Online, it's a completely different ballgame," Roeding said.

Only 0.5 percent to 3 percent of online visitors are converted to purchasers, he said.

Shoppers also can earn Shopkick points by scanning bar codes on Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods products in any store.

"Anyone in a store on Black Friday without a bar code reader will be guaranteed to be waste money before the day is out," said Jeff Katz, chief executive of online comparison shopping site Nextag.

Additionally, this week Amazon.com introduced an iPhone barcode app called Price Check by Amazon that shoppers can use to compare in-store prices with its website and other online merchants.

Five apps that will help you shop: ShopKick: Earn points for walking in the door.

Tag Reader: Get detailed product information from those new square bar codes that are popping up.

Snaptell: Snap a photo of a bar code and get competitive pricing.

Foursquare: Check in and receive special offers.

Facebook Places: Receive discounts, share savings with friends and earn rewards for repeat visits.

To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com. Copyright (c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.

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