Mobile shopping doesn't just mean visiting a retailer's website and making purchases using a mobile phone. Today, the latest mobile app technology is turning smartphone users into smart shoppers as well.
One such technology is mobile visual search, which uses recognition technology to make finding products using a mobile phone easier than ever.
"Mobile visual search is the future, period," said Dominik Mazur, CEO and co-founder of Image Searcher, Inc., developers of CamFind, an iPhone app that practically renders text search obsolete.
Using mobile visual search, CamFind makes it easy for shoppers to find more information about an item and where they can buy it. For instance, users can simply take a picture of an item, and the app identifies the product and tells users where they can find the best deal.
"CamFind's interface does not only give price comparisons, but also information on any item that's photographed," Mazur said. This is extremely important when it comes to doing research before purchasing technology, such as televisions, he said. "CamFind allows people to simply take a picture of a product to determine if they are getting the best deal in the store."
Mobile visual search technology changes not only online shopping, but mobile shopping as well.
"In recent years, people transitioned to doing more online shopping. Soon, they will move to online mobile shopping. CamFind's technology is prepared for this change," Mazur said.
Mobile visual search is just one type of technology advancing mobile shopping. Here are five more apps changing the way people shop forever.
RedLaser is a free shopping and barcode-scanning app that takes showrooming to a whole new level.
Instead of wasting time searching for better deals online while shopping in-store, consumers can use RedLaser to scan an item's barcode and compare prices among thousands of online retailers and local brick-and-mortar stores.
Other features include the ability to save and track favorite products and stores, receive push notifications for special deals, digitally manage loyalty cards and purchase items through the app.
RedLaser is also retailer-friendly. Stores can have their own profile pages in the app, where shoppers can access weekly circulars and special offers in one convenient place.
RedLaser is available on the iPhone, Android devices and the Windows Phone.
Pounce combines the power of image recognition with the convenience of mobile payments.
With Pounce, users can take a picture of an item from print ads, circulars and catalogs, then easily buy the product directly from the retailer via the app in just a couple taps.
Pounce makes buying from a mobile phone easier than ever, because consumers only need to input their information once. The app saves credit card information, contact information and shipping addresses, making the buying process a breeze.
For retailers, Pounce solves the problem of abandoned mobile commerce (mcommerce) sales. Similar apps typically frustrate shoppers by redirecting them to a retailer's website — which is not always mobile-optimized — to make a purchase. There, shoppers must type in their information on a tiny screen every single time. Pounce minimizes the phenomena of consumers abandoning checkout due to frustration with this process. Instead, the app provides an enjoyable mobile shopping experience with an easy, two-step buying process.
Pounce is currently available on the Apple App Store.
Square Wallet is the wallet-less, phoneless way to pay: customers can just walk into a business and pay using only their name and a selfie.
Square Wallet works by associating the app with a customer's credit card and photo identification. To use Square Wallet, users first link their credit cards and upload their photos. Then, they can either use the app to manually check in every time they visit a participating business or turn on auto-check at businesses they frequent. To make a purchase, users simply give the cashier their name, which the cashier verifies using the user's pre-uploaded photo.
Shoppers can also find local businesses using Square Wallet, as well as make purchases by QR code. For instance, QR code scanning via Square Wallet is accepted at more than 7,000 Starbucks locations.
Square Wallet is available on the Apple App Store.
Mallzee is a mobile personal shopper that integrates social and online shopping — all while helping shoppers avoid a fashion faux pas.
Mallzee does two things: it recommends fashions that users will like, then lets friends vote whether or not a user should buy a particular item.
First, users find items from more than 200 participating brands, such as Urban Outfitters, ASOS and French Connection, then either instantly purchase the item or save it for a later time. The more a person uses the app, the more the app will learn and recommend fashion items the user will like.
To make things a little more fun, Mallzee lets users ask friends whether the item will make them look fab or drab. If a friend votes an item down, the app blocks the user from buying it, unless the user can convince the voter otherwise.
Mallzee is available on the Apple App Store.
Shopkick is a product-discovery and retail-rewards app.
With Shopkick, users can view a feed with popular items from stores like Target, Macy's, Old Navy, Best Buy, Sports Authority and Crate & Barrel. Shoppers can also find products from favorite or nearby stores.
The twist is that Shopkick rewards users simply for walking into a participating store. Rewards, called "Kicks," can also be earned by scanning products in-store using the app, linking credit cards and making purchases. Rewards can then be redeemed for gift cards. It's easy to earn these rewards, since Shopkick has partnered not only with stores, but also with hundreds of brands, like L'Oreal, P&G and Kraft.
ShopKick is available on the iPhone and on Android smartphones.