FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Savvy Shopping, Internet Style

They say that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. And between the proliferation of highly opinionated blogs and consumer-oriented discussion forums, the Net has taken this kind of comparison shopping to a whole new level. Call it "word of mouse."

Before you shop for gifts this holiday season, you might want to investigate your gift ideas on PlanetFeedback.com, where consumers can post compliments, complaints, questions and ideas about products and services. Or, chat with someone who has experience with a product at AskAnOwner.com. Savvy businesses are taking notice of this trend, being especially proactive in responding directly to users' questions and correcting problems.

Taking consumer empowerment a step further is the Japanese division of Amazon.com, which allows users to scan bar codes of products with their mobile phones and learn more about them before purchasing. What's in it for Amazon? Among the information they provide are Amazon's (usually lower) prices and the means for direct ordering. So instead of heading to the checkout lane with an item, a savvy shopper can scan the bar code, get a lower price, place an order via mobile phone... and put the item back on the shelf. Now that's disruptive technology!!

As this kind of moblie technology catches on worldwide, one can imagine a "store" of the future that has on display only one sample of each item. Shoppers could see and touch the items, then scan the barcode (or RFID tag) with their mobile devices. This would give the shopper more information, as well as the best possible price as the store's database compares other publicly available price databases. If she agrees to purchase, the shopper could pick up the item at a check-out area or have it delivered to her home, with the purchase charged to her credit or debit account. The layout and atmosphere of the store would be consequently very different; customers would be encouraged to browse, interact with one another, and just hang out... not unlike a Starbuck's or a Barnes & Noble. Shopping could conceivably revert to a more social experience, like the bazaars of old.

Source: Trendwatching