Phone apps create new kind of impulse buying

SAN JOSE, Calif.

About one in four consumers are packing smartphones in their purses or on their belts, and the advanced phones enable them to load mobile applications that can scan bar codes, hunt for sales and even allow them to say aloud a product name to initiate a price search. PriceCheck by Amazon is one of the leading applications today.

This is going to lead to a new kind of impulse buying, says Prof. Kirthi Kalyanam, director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University. He says consumers will be able to make on-the-spot decisions whether to buy at one store or to walk over to another at the mall for the best price. It also means they don't have to do all their pricing homework online at home before going to mall, speeding up the shopping process.

With PriceCheck, ABC7 was able to find prices for an over-the-counter allergy medication from 20 retailers. The prices ranged from $2 to $18 for the very same product. The app automatically scanned the bar code on the packaging, using the smartphone's built-in camera. A similar search yielded similar results when the app's voice recognition system was used; the name of the product was said aloud instead of using the bar code.

Having the power of information in the palm of consumers' hands will put pressure on retailers to match or beat competitors' pricing. it is still unclear is whether it will impact online sales if consumers spend more time using smartphones to do their research.

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