2010 November 23
by Dave

Bar code scanner apps that allow you to instantly comparison shop on your smart phone are nothing new. An Amazon scanner app that also integrates photographic, spoken, and text search is something new. The part that will drive behavioral change isn’t the product scanning, searching and price comparing. The disruptor is the ability to buy it from Amazon instantly.

I see a pair of shoes I like. I try them on and they feel great. I take out my iPhone and within thirty seconds I have opened the Amazon app, snapped a picture of the bar code, verified that it is the pair of shoes that I was expecting and that the size is right, and then I push the one click purchase button and then put my phone away.

Done. I just bought the shoes. I can walk out of the store without waiting in line. I don’t have to carry them around the mall with me. I didn’t have to pay any shipping or sales tax. And I actually paid ten dollars less than the store was asking.

There has been a fair amount of buzz around mobile shopping lately but I had been so far unconvinced. Now I am. I think this type of application could really change user habits.

The battle to watch for in this space is between Amazon and PayPal. Those are the two companies that already have your payment and shipping info and serve as a trusted intermediary between you and the wider universe of online retailers. They will both start out in areas that cater to their strengths, Amazon’s bar code scanner app and PayPal’s money utility tool, but those are just footholds on your smartphone and they will eventually go head to head.

The real question is whether Apple has gotten enough of a taste for taking a sip of every penny that passes through their phones to try to push into this area as well. Er, maybe that’s not so much of a question.

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