mShopper – Get confidence and buying options from your phone

mshopperlogo.pngWe’ve all been there. You’re about to buy that nice new TV from Best Buy, but you wonder to yourself… is this a good price? Then you buy it anyway because a) you just want the damn thing, and b) you’re already in the store. The alternative of going home to use your broadband connection to research prices, or to make a call to someone who can, or to fire up your iPhone to try to do an e-commerce price search is just too painful. It’s Best Buy, so it’s going to be a good price every time, right?

Wrong. This happened to me. I bought a Sony Bravia TV, then saw it for way less a few days later in another store. Same TV.

mShopper gives you confidence. Just fire up your cell phone and key in the first few letters of the manufacturer and model. You’ll get a list of credible vendors offering that product and where to get the best prices. You can even order it to be delivered, right from your phone. This is super handy while you’re in the store, considering a purchase. If you can get it delivered for less money, that’s good to know. It’s also useful when trying to get a better price in the store.

mShopper’s premise is that people still like to go to stores to compare the products. That’s why I was in Best Buy that day – I wanted to compare the pictures side by side. So physical stores aren’t going away. Using mShopper from the store is a cool experience. You get confidence in a “close enough” price quickly if you really want to take the product home today. You get the ability to show the salesman the price they need to beat. And you get the ability to instead have the same product shipped right to your home for less money. In short, you get information and options.

And mShopper is not just for consumer electronics. They’ve got an impressive list of merchants already signed up and providing their product catalogs.

I also think it’s really great that mShopper has donated 10% of their stock to a non-profit that it has created called 2B. In addition, users can choose to donate a portion of their savings to charities which they selected with each transaction. Pretty cool.

One advantage mShopper has over the other guys is ease of use. Other services make you key in a SKU (how the heck do you get that while you’re in the store?) or make you jump through similarly annoying hoops. The usability of mShopper is well thought out, as you can see here.


You can get a much better feel for the usability of mShopper by clicking on the demo link on their home page.

But how does mShopper make money? In theory, they drive sales and collect affiliate and referral fees for those transactions. The consumers pay nothing. Since I first met the founder (David Gould) last December and saw the product, I’ve said that I have concerns with this model. This is because I think the primary use of this product will be as an information tool. In other words, I don’t expect it to drive sales directly from the mobile phone on a large scale basis. I think most users will use it to gain confidence or to learn about options. But will they actually pull the trigger and purchase right from the phone? I had my doubts when I first tested mShopper last year, and provided this feedback to David. They’ve taken that advice and mShopper now effectively mitigates this risk by doing things like automatically sending the user an email that is waiting at home in the users inbox for each item they search on. That way if they don’t buy the product in the store, the affiliate link is still alive and well on the desktop where the real research will be done. They’re also dealing with this by offering a live voice connection to someone who can help you complete your purchase, but I’m also unsure of this aspect of the model at scale. There are probably also good white label opportunities for the company that can drive revenue for them. Overall, I think mShopper has good access to multiple revenue models and plenty of potential users with cell phones in their pockets. It will be interesting to see which model works at scale.

Rumor has it that mShopper is also close to announcing a major deal that will provide strong distribution for their product with a wireless carrier. I’m curious to see if mShopper will keep it’s brand in that channel, or if it’s more of a white label deal.

I had the honor of being the first outside beta tester for this product back in December of last year. Congrats to David Gould and the mShopper team for their progress on this interesting product. It’s come a long way in a short time, and I’m excited to see where it goes now that it’s out in the open. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

file under: Blog, Startups