Ah the holidays are coming, and as holiday shopping ramps up new apps are in the air…and of course in consumers’ smartphones. According to “Amazon Price Comparison App Aims At Brick-and-Mortar Stores” by Mark Walsh http://bit.ly/g1JQHb Target, Best Buy, JCPenney and Nordstrom have all released their own apps for smartphones, as have Ebay and Amazon. More smartphone shoppers compare prices and view product details and reviews on their smartphones during in-store shopping than ever before. A Harris Interactive poll, discussed in “Will Stores Become Obsolete” http://bit.ly/9HikeG indicates that this trend is growing the most among the 18-34 age group. However, it also shows that online shopping has increased across the board. So what does this mean for stores? Well, just like an earlier blog post about the future of print, there is always someone who says that something spells doom and death for something else. A little extreme? I think so. My thought is that there is a way for both to coexist. Perhaps the best way is found in the apps that stores develop for themselves, giving them a direct connection to their consumers.
Chris Harnick’s “Macy’s, Nordstrom, Buckle, Charlotte Russe and Bon-Ton Put Gift Guides on iPhone” states that store apps for the holidays feature gift guides and pair retailers with gift guides from popular magazines http://bit.ly/gTvzzo. When items sell out, changes are then reflected within the app. Similar apps like this during the rest of the year could be the competitive edge that stores need to maintain profit. Of course, there will always be the bargain hunters. Those are the ones who will gravitate towards apps like Ebay’s popular Red Laser, which compares a product’s price across several online and physical retail options, and Amazon’s Price Check, which compares a product’s in-store price to the Amazon price and offers the option to purchase and ship it directly through the app if the consumer goes with Amazon. Essentially, the answer to the question what will this do to stores really lies in the psychological aspect. Will a consumer, given the choice, delay the immediate gratification of purchasing an item in the store they are physically in to save money? The results could be decidedly split. Certain types of these apps may steal some stores’ thunder, but I do not see a future without stores. Consumers need stores. Shopping online is a very solitary experience and many enjoy the camaraderie of shopping with friends. Also,the tangible aspect is a factor; especially where clothes are concerned. Perhaps some of these apps pose a threat, but if stores harness the power and potential of their store apps I think that these can serve a helpful purpose and any threat can be greatly limited and/or contained.