Shoppers with smart phones IQ squeezing retailers

Dec 17, 2009 By EMILY FREDRIX , AP Marketing Writer
In this photo made Dec. 8, 2009, Kelly Norby searches coupontom.com on her Blackberry to find coupons for Yoplait brand yogurt at a Target store in Wheeling, Ill. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

(AP) -- The rise of smart phones, with their go-anywhere Web access, is changing the shopping game this holiday season.

Tech-savvy shoppers are finding it easier than ever to work the system to get the best deals.

They're scanning barcodes with their cell phone cameras to load into price comparison Internet sites while standing in store aisles, using to find discounts at nearby stores and flashing straight from their phones.

The ease of real-time price comparisons creates competitive pressure for retailers that pushes prices down for everyone. Retailers who resist risk losing a sale to a rival even while the customer is still in their own store.

Briana Carter, 31, recently spied a $40 pink laptop cooling pad at a Kohl's department store. She scanned its bar code with her and using an application called ShopSavvy found the same thing for $25 at online retailer Amazon.com.

While still inside Kohl's, Carter, of Tipton, Ind., bought the pad from Amazon through her phone.

Shoppers definitely have discounts on the brain. Unique visits to the top 10 coupon and rewards sites rose 6 percent from October to November to 70.4 million, Nielsen Co. research said.

Merchants, already struggling with weak sales and a mediocre in this tough economy, are forced to play along, said David Bassuk, a managing director in the retail practice at consultancy AlixPartners.

Macy's Inc., The Gap Inc., and many others are paying a growing list of sites to list deals online.

A few years ago, the Web site savings.com listed coupons for about 1,000 retailers; that's up to 4,000 now.

"The retailers are very, very hungry right now, so the consumer is in the driver seat," Bassuk said.

Sales to people who click through the savings.com site are expected to double to $200 million this year from last.

"Would they rather have every consumer come directly to them and pay full price? Of course, but the reality is it doesn't happen that way," said savings.com CEO Loren Bendele.

Currently, about 18 percent of cell phones are ; they're on track to be the majority in the U.S. by 2011, Nielsen says.

Waiting for them are hundreds of applications made by third-party companies to root out discounts and coupons. Many of the apps are free.

- CouponSherpa uses a shopper's location to find coupons for nearby stores. No printer needed: just show the coupon at checkout.

- ShopSavvy scans bar codes with a phone's camera to check prices online.

- Pricegrabber.com's new iPhone application lets shoppers compare prices and buy from Web sites anywhere.

Kelly Norby, 30, of Vernon Hills, Ill., goes online and uses her phone to save on everything from groceries to holiday gifts. If she's in the grocery store and spies an item she doesn't have a coupon for, she whips out her phone to check coupontom.com.

"I'm sort of giddy about it," she said of her deals. "It's like you've won something."

With these tools in consumers' hands, it's hard for to get anyone to pay full price.

"Are you giving away discounts for people who would otherwise have bought it from you anyway? That's the challenge," said Praveen Kopalle, a business professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

But worse? Losing the sale altogether.

Explore further: LG Chem's super-efficient OLED lighting has life of 40,000 hours

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Holiday Web shopping looks brighter than last year

Nov 26, 2009

(AP) -- Online retailers hope the convenience of the Web, plus discounts and deals, spur still-nervous shoppers to spend more online this holiday season - even as traditional retailers brace for mediocre sales.

New study shows it pays to shop around online

Nov 24, 2008

Holiday shopping season has arrived, and tough financial times mean that more people will probably be shopping around for the best price. But a new study co-authored by North Carolina State University's Dr. Jonathan D. Bohlmann ...

Smart phones transform the way we shop

Apr 29, 2009

Bart Farrell bought an Apple iPhone a little more than a year ago, and it has since become his device of choice for tasks he could have only dreamed of performing on his old flip phone: Checking movie showtimes and paying ...

Recommended for you

Google to test cars without a driver

Sep 16, 2014

Google plans to begin testing its new prototype of a self-driving car - which, unlike earlier models, doesn't require a back-up driver - at NASA's Ames Research Center, just a few miles from the tech company's ...

Self-driving cars now need a permit in California

Sep 16, 2014

Computer-driven cars have been testing their skills on California roads for more than four years—but until now, the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn't sure just how many were rolling around.

Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

Sep 12, 2014

A new index ranks Japan as the most efficient among Asian countries in turning the building blocks of creativity into tangible innovations that benefit their economies and people while Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia are least ...

Making travel quick, safe for cars, bikes, walkers

Sep 10, 2014

Cellphones that warn drivers when people are crossing in front of them. Bicycles and cars that communicate with traffic lights. Sensors in cars that quickly alert other drivers to black ice, potholes or other ...

Tech giants bet on 'smart home' revolution

Sep 10, 2014

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but tech giants hope the "smart home", where gadgets talk to each other and the fridge orders the milk, will soon become reality.

User comments : 0