As the hol­iday season and “Black Friday” approach, con­sumers will be looking for deals in the still strug­gling economy. Online shop­ping has become pop­ular with many cus­tomers, and now a new tech­nology enables them to make pur­chases on their mobile phones. In this Q&A, Gloria Bar­czak, pro­fessor of mar­keting in the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, looks at the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages for con­sumers using these shop­ping applications.

How do shopping-​​related smart­phone appli­ca­tions bridge the cus­tomer ser­vice gap between cus­tomer and retailer?

Smart­phone appli­ca­tions make it easier and poten­tially faster in this hol­iday season for cus­tomers to shop and pur­chase items of interest. By so doing, the apps can help improve cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion because cus­tomers don’t have to wait for a sales person to ask ques­tions, go to a store that doesn’t have the product in stock, or wait in a long line to check out. Also, by including sales or deals in the app, cus­tomers using the app may per­ceive that they are spe­cial and there­fore become more loyal to the store.

What are the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive aspects of shop­ping appli­ca­tions?

Pos­i­tive aspects of shop­ping appli­ca­tions include price-​​comparison shop­ping, infor­ma­tion and noti­fi­ca­tion of deals and spe­cials, ability to search for a spe­cific product and which store has it, and ability to pre-​​order items. Appli­ca­tions pro­vide store loca­tions and have an overall con­ve­nience factor.

Neg­a­tive aspects of shop­ping appli­ca­tions include the time it takes to search and the adver­tise­ments users may have to view on the app.

How might this tech­nology be used by retailers in the future?

In the future I think we will see more store spe­cific apps offering pre­views of upcoming sales, mobile coupons, spe­cial sales only for those using the mobile app, and maybe even sug­ges­tions for gift or self pur­chases based on past pur­chase behavior (sim­ilar to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). Overall, the apps will expand to pro­vide greater con­ve­nience for the con­sumer, thereby enhancing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and hope­fully loy­alty to a par­tic­ular retail store.

How do you think shop­ping appli­ca­tions will affect Black Friday and hol­iday shop­ping?

According to an October 2010 U.S. Mobile Con­sumer Briefing by the Mobile Mar­keting Asso­ci­a­tion, nearly 60 per­cent of mobile con­sumers will use their phone for hol­iday shop­ping and plan­ning. At least 13 per­cent expect to use their phone for gift pur­chases. Given these survey results and the lag­ging economy, I would expect that more con­sumers than ever will be using their mobile phones to do price com­par­ison shop­ping in order to find the best deals on hol­iday gifts on Black Friday and during the entire hol­iday shop­ping season.

- Christina Barrows