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CTIA panel: Mobile retail is more than just coupons

March 24, 2010


From left: Ian Wolfman, Bryan Seti, Tom Cotney, Ran Farmer and Jon Vlassopulos

LAS VEGAS – The latest in-store uses of mobile go beyond coupon campaigns and expose opportunities for mobilized packaging, consumer self-scanning, social networking and shopping-focused applications.

The “mRetail: Mobile Gives Shapping a Boost in the Store and on the Device” panel at CTIA discussed how brands, retailers and advertisers are increasingly turning to the mobile channel to engage consumers while they are in the purchase decision process. Many companies are enhancing consumer retail experiences both in-store and on-the-go.

“Retail compared to other verticals is more interesting in the type of mobile applications it has,” said Mendy Mendelsohn, CEO and co-founder of 3G Vision, Israel. “Retail unlike government or healthcare is more of a brand and therefore it has to look into the competitive area.

“Perhaps it’s the most advanced in the area of marketing and internal sales,” he said. “Comparison shopping is taking ecommerce and bringing it into the shop. I doubt that the retailer would be very happy with that.”

“There are ways to have the retailer use the experience of shopping and mobilize it to enhance the experience.”

3G Vision uses the camera phone as a mobile eye. The device scans bar codes for various types of products and the company has been involved in the pure Japanese encoding. All new handsets come with the bar coding capabilities installed.

Aside from Japan, Mr. Mendelsohn said that he has customers in Australia as well and is seeing more business cards with codes in them.

3G’s bar codes offer consumers product information for various types of goods. A user scans the bar code with their camera phone and if, for example, they are scanning a food product, they receive the nutrition information, general information and occasionally a joke of the day, to both entertain and inform the user, according to 3G.

The company worked with a winery in Switzerland and placed bar codes on bottles, letting consumers find out where the grapes were grown and what types of grapes were used.

Mobile retail
In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, Coca-Cola set up hot spots around the campus and consumers who came by the hot spots were invited to download Olympic content that advertisers offered via their phone. According to the panelists, businesses need to interact with their customers and engage them.

Scott Puopolo, vice president of global service provider practice at Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group said that companies need to look at how consumer attitudes are changing.

“It’s about comparison shopping, the ability to do more efficient checkouts so consumers don’t have to wait in line,” Mr. Puopolo said.

“It’s also about efficiency, making sure I’ve got the right products on the shelf when the customer is there,” he said. “Companies should bring the customer to convergence faster and make it more efficient for customers to buy. They can do it with their mobile phones.”

Today, many retailers are recognizing how competitive mobile commerce is.

JCPenney introduced a Cellfire program where it would send electronic coupons to its consumers’ phones and they would scan the bar code to get a discount.

“There may be an impact when you use the phone as a payment device in the future,” said Frawnk Riso, senior director of global retail solutions, enterprise mobility solutions at Motorola.”

“Electronic marketing, there’s a value there,” he said. “There’s a whole new revenue there.”

For Jeremey Lockhorn – director of emerging media at Razorfish – however, it is all about privacy.

Mr. Lockhorn said that it is not long before there is going to be an eruption of consumers who realize that companies have some of their information.

“Transparency is a must, if you try to hide from that, you become untrustworthy and for any brand, that’s a problem,” Mr. Lockhorn said. “It’s a critical thing.

“At the end of the day the retailer’s value is selling more stuff and making more money,” he said. But there are multiple ways to do that. How do I help make the shopping experience more efficient? Or easy or simple? How do I make that experience better for the consumer? I think that’s where the rubber really hits the road.”

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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