Shopping via mobile devices hasn’t been much more than a novelty before this year’s holiday shopping season. But now that brick-and-mortar giants like Wal-Mart and Sears, and click-and-mortar giants like Amazon and Zappos have all put efforts toward developing this new sales channel, its long-term presence in the retail industry is virtually guaranteed (pun intended).
In a second-half holiday shopping season push, Wal-Mart started aggressively advertising new sales and specials via text message alerts this weekend. It's like virtual blue-light specials that the world's largest retailer hoped would get shoppers to stop dead in their holiday errand tracks, and set them scurrying off to Wal-Mart. Why didn't Kmart think of that?
K-mart's parent company, Sears, has an awareness of the potential for m-commerce, as evidenced by their launch of sears2go.com. This mini site is formatted to be user friendly for mobile phones and is optimized for use on approximately 400 different mobile devices. Shoppers can cyber shop on their phone, get a text message when their order is ready, and pick their order up without standing in line at a cash register. All Sears needs now is a drive-through window to become the McDonald's of department stores.
Not surprisingly, Amazon.com has been an m-commerce pioneer. It launched its "TextBuyIt" service in April, and its newest innovation is called "Amazon Remembers." With this newest mobile application, iPhone users can take a photo of a product, and the Amazon system will automatically conduct a search through its millions of products to see if it has anything for sale that looks similar to the photo. If a visual match is made, Amazon sends an e-mail with the product details and, of course, a link for purchasing it.
Zappos' m-commerce strategy, so far, has been one of sales through socializing. Currently, 435 Zappos,com employees are communicating regularly on the social networking, micro-blogging, quasi chatroom Twitter site. One might think that all that twittering might cause productivity concerns with Zappos management. Since CEO, Tony Hsieh, has the largest number of Twitter followers himself (20,947), there are obviously no objections. Tony's "tweets" show us photos of the moon, heating pizza on an iron in a hotel room, and a guy on the streets of New York with a cat on his head. The sales benefit of all the twittering is that intangible, immeasurable thing called customer relationship, which Zappos also builds daily by being a superior e-commerce merchant.
According to m-Poria, an m-commerce service provider in Seattle, seven million shoppers made an average of $68 in mobile purchases last year. Can the other 229 million U.S. wireless subscribers be far behind?