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Mobile Shopping: Easy as Taking Pictures with Snap-To-Buy

Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

February 10, 2015

Mobile Shopping: Easy as Taking Pictures with Snap-To-Buy

By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer

For a while, it seemed like the smartphone would end up replacing the standalone digital camera for all but the most specialist functions, and not without reason. Some have said that the best camera for a job is the one that's on hand, and indeed, a smartphone was often on hand. But now, thanks to new developments, the camera that's on hand isn't just a memory preserver, but rather, a means to shop online.

The combination of the smartphone camera and image recognition technology is coming together to make shopping an even more convenient process than it was already. With such systems, users can now simply take a photograph of a product, or even just a barcode, to spot potential purchases before making even one order. This offers up an opportunity as well for astute businesses, who can allow users to photograph a product, and then provide a list of accessories or complementary goods available as well. Throw in a discount for those who use the app to find these accessories and it's almost a hat trick of shopping: the item photographed, its accessories and a discount for the lot.

There's even a name for this growing trend: “Snap-To-Buy”. Under the principles of Snap-To-Buy, businesses are looking not only for more ways to encourage customers to take pictures of products, but to use that behavior to spur buying behavior as well. For instance, Target (News - Alert) uses a system known as “In A Snap,” in which users can photograph a Target ad to get prices for the various items spotted within the advertisement's pages. Another similar app known as Snapup extends the concept, allowing users to photograph products of interest and create lists around said products.

As exciting as this sounds however, it comes with an important caveat, as explained by Grupo Gallegos' Chris Mellow: “If the scan-to-shop feature doesn’t add significant value, let alone function properly, customers will do the same thing that they’ve done with UPC and QR code scanning and just ignore it.” Thus, for the system to really have any impact, any Snap-To-Buy system must be easily used and offer clear value over other ways to do business.

There's little doubt that a Snap-To-Buy system can be a convenient, exciting way for customers to do businesses, and any means of shopping that perks a customer's interest can hardly be dismissed out of hand. But by like token, it can't just be thrown into the process without due consideration of how it’s used, and putting it to work the right way is going to be important. It's a good idea to perform extensive testing first, making sure the system works the right way, every time, because without that accuracy and ease of use, fickle customers are likely to not only leave that system alone, but potentially even drop the entire brand in response. We've seen that recently from a Contact Solutions study showing the importance of having mobile chat on hand in a mobile shopping app, so those putting a Snap-To-Buy system in place will likely also need the ability to reach help quickly in the event of trouble.

Snap-To-Buy, and similar image recognition tools are powerful additions to a retailer's shopping systems, particularly online shopping systems. But if not used properly, it can do a lot more damage than good. Using these systems carefully should go a long way toward making these useful new additions perform to the peak, and provide the best return for the business using these.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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