Shopping on the iPhone
By David Dorf on Dec 08, 2008
I've had my iPhone for a while now, and my favorite non-Apple applications are Facebook, Evernote, and More Cowbell. But its not all fun and games. In a previous post I discussed some of the research we were doing with Twitter on the iPhone for store managers. I started wondering if retailers were doing anything with iPhone applications, so I did a little research.
The iPhone has applications that track shopping lists, find the best sales, and even calculate final price after discount and tax. But there are very few that come from retailers. I could only find four, which I'll review below. All are free, so try them out.
The Mobile Amazon application basically gives you an iPhone view of a subset of the standard website. Once you've logged in, it recognizes you so it can make recommendations, show you your wishlist and shopping cart, and allow product searches. Your shopping cart is constant so you can manage it on your PC and your iPhone. The iPhone application also allows you to complete your purchase just like you would on a PC.
The more interesting feature is called "Remembers." It allows you to take pictures of things that you want to remember, principally future purchases. So if you see a sweater that you like but you don't want to buy it right away, snap a picture so you remember it later. The picture are accessible from your PC later, so you can do further research. Amazon will also try to match the picture to a product, but I just don't think that will be very accurate.
Update: I took a picture of Business Week magazine, and Amazon sent me an email stating they resolved my picture and offered me a subscription. They must be using their mechanical turk.
The Target Snow Globe is very holiday specific. It suggests gifts, let's you keep a shopping list, and helps you find the closest Target store. For gift suggestions, you choose male or female, then use a slider to set the age range. With every shake of the iPhone, the snow globe reveals a new gift suggestion. I let my kids play with this while waiting for a table at a restaurant, and they thought it was great. The animation, sounds, and use of iPhone features are top-notch.
The Gifter Stress Lifter, as its called, helps you find gifts by having you take a personality quiz for the each recipient on your list. The list can be constructed from your contact list, which is a great feature. You choose the relationship (e.g. wife, son, friend) and the age range, then it asks you 6 questions about the person, allowing you to select 3 pictures (out of 9) that best answer each question. Its very fast and intuitive. After the personality quiz, it recommends gifts.
I tried to find a gift for my wife. At the end of the quiz, it classified her as a Caregiver, Avid Reader, and Travel Fiend. The first two are spot-on, and the third would be true if we didn't have young kids. It then listed 20-30 items that matched her personality, most of which were applicable. After selecting an item to purchase, I was taken to the Sam's Club website (which was not optimized for the iPhone).
The Gap application offers videos of celebrities wearing Gap clothes singing holiday songs called "Merry Mixed Carols." I guess its entertaining, but a little too hip for me. Of course anything with Rain Wilson (aka Dwight Shrute from The Office) has to have some merit. The second option is "Mix Not Match" which allows you to mix different outfits on a picture of a man or woman. It makes good use of the "finger drag" to slide different sweaters, scarves, and hats onto the "manikin."
I was impressed with this first crop of iPhone applications. I found them entertaining and useful. I think we'll be seeing more iPhone (and probably Blackberry) applications from retailers in the near future, and I'm looking forward to it.