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Renewed Demand for SMS Mobile Commerce Apps


Consider this U.S. retailer scenario. A customer calls a store about product availability. The product isn't in stock, so the in-store salesperson enters the consumer's mobile phone number into an automated alert system -- whereby an SMS message is sent to the consumer when the product is re-stocked. The consumer replies by SMS, and the product is put aside -- awaiting pick-up.

If you live in the United States, when has a retailer offered this simple value-added service to you? Yes, it's a rhetorical question. I've been asking similar questions since I wrote a related editorial for Telephony magazine -- way back in 2004.

Fast-forward to today. eMarketer reports that tech-savvy shoppers place great demands on multichannel retailers. A majority expect to be able to track, modify, complete and order from any channel -- according to a July 2010 survey from Sterling Commerce.

Busy consumers expect "smart-shopping" options: from product research to purchase and delivery.

As smartphones continue to proliferate and people routinely use their phone as a shopping channel, retailers must be ready to offer capabilities through a mobile device. Keeping in mind, the de facto capability on all phones is still SMS, and remains under-utilized by most businesses.

While many retailers focus on the price-comparison ability of smartphones, web users surveyed by Sterling Commerce said the single most important shopping function of a mobile phone is stock checks.

Retailers apparently still struggle with accurate assessments of in-store product availability. But as the Sterling Commerce report says, product availability is becoming a necessity for impatient shoppers: "Nearly two thirds (66 percent) of consumers surveyed considered it important to very important to be able to conveniently determine in-stock availability before visiting a store."

Internet users also told Sterling Commerce that looking up product availability was the feature they would most like to see in a retailer's branded mobile app. It was valued over store location info and in-store product reviews.

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