I've downloaded a number of retail-related apps on my phone, and I am a sucker for those that purport to provide deals and special offers directly to my phone. I have recently downloaded Point Inside, an app intended to help navigate shopping malls, and enables mall developers and retailers to promote store events and deals. I also have a AAA Discounts app, which helps me find businesses that offer AAA members discounts. ShopSavvy, a comparison shopping application, was first on Android and recently became available to iPhone customers who can use the phone's camera to read a barcode and look up other stores that might offer the product for less. And I have a couple of apps from the fashion magazines I enjoy, which also provides me feeds with offers from both local and national stores.
All of these apps are free downloads, because they are largely ad-supported. I enthusiastically download free shopping apps, but with each one, I can't help but wonder if I am seeing the "best" offer? Shopping apps which represent multiple vendors - as opposed to the branded retail apps like Gap or Starbucks - often include proprietary advertising platforms intended to leverage a network of existing users or loyal customers, like AAA customers, Elle magazine readers, or mall shoppers. Advertisers who appreciate the reach of these ready-made audiences and can then choose their mix of mobile application partners.
But from the consumer's perspective, these apps aren't exact substitutions for clipping the Sunday circular or taking the Bed and Bath coupon from mailbox, because they are not leveraging the same behavior to get the customer to take the deal. For example, I never had an app on my phone with my favorite mall's directory, so I am guessing it may help me most when I visit shopping centers in other cities, since my patterns around the local mall are pretty familiar to me. However, I used to receive a monthly magazine from AAA with coupons, which I never remembered to take with me in my car. Now these offers are always with me on my phone, which I can imagine will make them more useful. I can look at the AAA deals as easily as the Point Inside mall promos or a coupons from aggregators like app providers Cellfire and Yowza. If my local Home Depot is having a special on Weber barbecue grills, I might know now about the deal by scanning the bar code to learn I can go 5 miles to another store to buy it more cheaply. I have so many tools now to find the best value, including search and my mobile web browser, I have come to expect I should check my phone now before hitting the store check-out.
If only I could have an app to search all my other shopping-related apps for the best deal among them...