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Consumer Reports takes paid model to new app

October 19, 2010

Consumers Union taps Kargo to launch the Consumer Reports iPhone app

Consumers Union taps Kargo to launch the Consumer Reports iPhone app

Consumers Union’s new Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper iPhone application provides access to ratings, recommendations, brand reliability and buying advice on appliances, electronics, children’s products, car care and home products. 

Available at an introductory price of $9.99 for the first year—the application will sell for $14.99 beginning Jan. 1—Mobile Shopper lets consumers research purchases by scanning the UPC bar code, searching for the make and model or browsing through thousands of Consumer Reports expert ratings. The information is peppered with model comparisons, user reviews, the CR Best Buy and CR recommendations.

“Our goal with mobile is to give anyone who is looking to make advocacy and shopping decisions whatever information they need wherever they are,” said Matthew Goldfeder, director of mobile products and services at Consumers Union, Yonkers, NY. “We launched a mobile version of as a value-add for subcribers, but we always wanted to have that flagship app.

“Apps are sexy and can do more things than a mobile site—a bar code scanner has been everyone’s pipe dream here at Consumer Reports for the last few years,” he said. “We want to get our expert ratings and reviews in their hands when it makes the most sense, when they’re about to make a purchase.”

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers.

To maintain independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising and no free test samples.

Consumers Union’s flagship publication, Consumer Reports, has a circulation of more than 4 million and continues to expand.

In addition, Consumers Union has launched and expanded Consumer Reports on Health, Consumer Reports Money Adviser, and, most recently, ShopSmart magazine.

Targeting mobile consumers
Consumers Union partnered with Kargo to create the Mobile Shopper application. The company powers the Consumer Reports mobile Web site as well.

Consumers want unbiased information before they make a purchase, and now they can get it right using their iPhone in the aisle of any store. 

Consumer Reports claims that it pioneered a successful paid model for Web content, launching in 1997 with 300,000 subscribers. Currently the site has more than 3.2 million paid subscribers. 

Consumers Union is confident that it can replicate that success with its pay-per-download iPhone application, which is basically the equivalent of a one-year subscription.

“We’re targeting new younger subscribers—we’re not going for niche—everybody shops,” Mr. Goldfeder said. “We want to get to a brand new demographic, younger consumers, say, 25-45.

“Part of strategy for launching the app is to make ourselves relevant and increase brand engagement to a younger audience,” he said.

Helping consumers on the go make informed buying decisions

Helping consumers on the go make informed buying decisions

Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper lets consumers:

• Scan bar codes, browse or search to find product information

• View complete test ratings for thousands of products

• Compare ratings, features and specs

• Check overall reliability by brand

• Shop online or shop locally to find the best deals online or at nearby retail stores

• Share deals or product ideas with friends and family via email or Facebook

• Save products for quick and easy access

The application is available in the iTunes store for iPhones using iOS 4.0 or greater.

The app's brand reliability index

The app's brand reliability index

A version for Android is currently in development as well.

Consumers Union will take advantage of house inventory on its own mobile and PC sites, as well as an ad in the print edition to promote the application. It is also testing mobile advertising to drive downloads.

“No advertising within the app is a critical piece,” Mr. Goldfeder said. “We know that $9.99 as an introductory price is high, but we cannot and will not take any outside advertising, so all we can hang our hat on is our content, just like we’ve been charging for our online content for about 15 years.

“If we put it out at $0.99 we’d be devaluing our content of best-in-class product reviews,” he said. “For ten bucks you get one-year mobile access paying for baked-in product ratings.

“The bar code scanner is really nice, but you’re not paying for that, you’re paying for our core ratings and reviews.”

Final Take

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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