CES 2012: Smartphone Apps to Help and Hinder Retail

Retail shopping solutions are making their presence felt at CES as either a cooperative offering, or in competition with the brick and mortar stores. Following a holiday period where Amazon (and others) began actively pushing smartphone-based price comparison tools, the timing is opportune for retailers – and consumers – to begin considering how the connected device will aid next generation shopping experiences.

There are a wide range of solutions on display, but two at opposite ends of the spectrum are worth a closer look: the first, Savvy, works more closely as a partner to the retailers. The solution involves scanning the purchase receipt, at which point Savvy will monitor the item purchased. If the price drops in the 30-day return period, the consumer will receive a rebate, which the retailer will provide as a gift card, or similar reimbursement. The result is an increased feeling of loyalty to the retailers, with the consumer impression that the retailer is helping to ensure that the price is right.

At the other end of the spectrum, is Decide. Decide also wants to ensure that the price is right, but by recommending when – and where – to purchase the product to guarantee that the deal is the best that you are likely to see in the coming months. Their algorithms look at billions of price considerations, as well as the likelihood that a new version of the product is just about to launch. The system is based on the same concept as Farecast, the flight fare comparison tool purchased by Microsoft in 2008. When the price looks to be as low as it will go, customers are referred to the correct buying site, and Decide gains a small commission for the pass-through.

While Savvy can be considered to be an ally of all things retail, Decide is an online tool, partnering with the likes of Amazon. While brick and mortar retailers can certainly be part of this process, the name of the game is purely a price negotiation, rather than considering the benefits of service expertise and customer rep knowledge, for example. Add into this mix the plethora of scan-based price comparison tools that are appearing from many online providers (such as Amazon) and the retail market looks set to face some interesting challenges before the end of the year.