Apps target US shopping frenzy
Target is also testing a way-finding feature on its app at stores that include some in Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles. If a shopper types in an item, the app will give its location.
Other app makers are betting that shoppers want apps that pull in information from a range of stores.
RedLaser, an eBay app, lets shoppers use their phones to compare prices and recently started using location data to give shoppers personalised promotions when they walk into stores, including items not on store shelves at Best Buy, for instance.
RetailMeNot, which offers e-commerce coupons, now has offline coupons that will pop up on users' mobile phones when they step near 500 malls today.
"Consumers are not going to download 40 different apps for 40 different stores," said Cyriac Roeding, co-founder of Shopkick, a location-based app that gives shoppers points, redeemable for discounts or gifts, when they walk into stores or scan certain items.
For Black Friday, Shopkick is publishing what it calls a little black book with the top doorbusters. Shoppers will earn extra points and rewards, like earbuds at Sony stores, for shopping today.
Adding an app that provides rewards or discounts to the mix gives offline retailers a defense against Amazon, Roeding said. And the technology use has become mainstream: Shopkick's average user is a 27-year-old mother in the Midwest.
At Westfield, which has 47 malls nationwide, a new app lets people search by product, to see which stores in the mall carry it and what their prices are. The app provides turn-by-turn walking directions, voice search for questions such as the location of the nearest restroom, and Black Friday promotions.
"Shoppers are creatures of habit and don't necessarily want to try new ways, but if we expose them to new stores or ways to get there, that's well-received," said Alan Cohen, executive vice-president for marketing at Westfield.
There are also plenty of deals-based apps for the shopping frenzy, including a Black Friday app by BradsDeals, TGI Black Friday and the BFAds.net Black Friday app. BradsDeals.com has published deals online for 11 years but first offered an app last year, when 250,000 people used it. This year, about 50 per cent more people are downloading it, said Brad Wilson, founder of BradsDeals.
The apps make shoppers smarter - and saner, Wilson said. His advice this year is to use apps to plan ahead. Then, once you shop, check apps to see whether new deals are available or you can find sold-out or overly expensive items elsewhere.
Mall of America in Bloomington, Minneapolis, is focusing its technology on areas that particularly frustrate shoppers, such as parking and finding gifts for relatives.
On the mobile app, people will be able to look at a parking map colour-coded by how full that parking area is. If people text the name of their parking level, the mall texts back telling them which door to exit from so they can find their cars after shopping.
The @mallofamerica Twitter handle, which has two extra people answering queries this year, will also post traffic advice and answer questions such as, "Is there a Panda Express here?" or "What should I buy my 5-year-old niece?"
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