Shopping apps are expanding to fill more niches, and incorporating customer feedback at the same time. Their evolution is similar to the evolution of movies. Movies started with silent film and became talkies, then branched out offering more options like animation and 3D. Shopping apps also started out basic and now they are taking it to the next level. Naturally, more and more apps are branching out to fill the gaps in their category’s services. Consumers want to have all of the information at their fingertips. They want to look at an item and get all of its product information, a picture, price comparisons at local stores and online websites, be able to tell if it is in stock and be told how to get to where it is from their current location. Basically, they want the shopping app that does it all. I am not sure if that exists yet, because it seems each app comes along with its own individual strengths. At the same time, the trend is also moving towards localization. This means driving as much foot traffic into local independent, small and medium-sized stores as to stores belonging to national chains. eBay has recently entered into these areas with its first shopping app acquired in the recent aquisition of Milo http://on.mash.to/lAHoOp. Milo’s partnerships with over 100 retailers enables it to deliver real-time information on inventory from about 50,000 stores. The app can show you if a nearby store has the product you are looking for on its shelves, and if it does, how its price compares with other local stores. Meanwhile Shopkick, an app known for its launch with national retailers like Macy’s, is now focusing its efforts on driving more foot trafic to local stores http://bit.ly/mDnQ9E. Through a sponsorship with Citi, Shopkick plans to install its hardware for free at the first 1,000 local businesses selected. The hardware senses when consumers using the app walk through the door of a participating store. Shoppers then get kicks or points towards purchases and rewards for browsing certain items. The last app is not really an app yet but is planning on developing a mobile component, which means it will probably become an app.
It is a website that is claiming the niche for reviews of common grocery products and product categories. Known as the ‘Yelp’ of packaged goods, its Consmr. Consmr is a recently launched website that aims to be the main source of packaged goods reviews http://bit.ly/kdwaVZ. Meaning if you ever find yourself at the store debating which product within a certain category is the best, or which brand of product is the best for a certain recipe, Consmr is where you would go for the answer. The website features brand pages for each of its 50,000 products, complete with reviews and ratings from regular shoppers as well as well-known bloggers. Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Prevention reviews are also incorporated. Unlike check-ins for other places and products, there is no barcode scanning or product in hand required. A simple check-in on the website is all you need to do. Chobani and AriZona, the site’s first two advertisers, are awarding Foursquare style badges (also known as pieces of flair like in Office Space) to those who complete certain tasks. Although there are few products and advertisers at this time, the site’s unique niche is sure to attract more to participate. You may ask, where is the localization component here? Well, that would be my suggestion as they evolve. Consmr will need to incorporate some type of access to grocery store inventory and prices to stay competitive in this age of localization. Each of these shopping tools provides a missing piece of the puzzle. Milo empowers consumers with store inventory numbers and price comparisons between stores and between stores and online sites. Shopkick drives more foot traffic into local stores and drives more foot traffic and attention to their featured products. Consmr hosts packaged goods reviews and ratings so that consumers find their desired product faster, with less time spent trying several products that do not suit them well. Two out of the three focus on independent, small and medium-sized local stores and the third may eventually adopt that trend to suit its purposes also. Shopping apps are evolving. No longer are they one-dimensional barcode scanners. A whole new generation of shopping tools is coming, and with them come new consumers. It is truly a new type of playing field.