Price comparison service Shopping.com has just launched an iPhone app to allow shoppers to find price and product reviews when shopping offline.
There are already some good mobile comparison apps and sites available, so i've been seeing how this new app compares...
With a number of comparison apps using barcode scanning, I was hoping for something more exciting than a simple keyword search option from this app.
Apps like Sccope and iBarcode both make offline price comparison easier and more accurate by allowing users to simply scan barcodes and return product results, and this is something I would have liked to see on this app.
However, the keyword search works well enough for the searches I tested on it, and dealt with obvious misspellings well, though it did take a bit of time for results to load up.
Results are accurate though, and the app provides some comprehensive and very useful options to narrow down the scope of the search and produce a more manageable number of product results.
In the screenshot below, the filtering options for a search for an iPod are tailored to the product category, and very useful, with filters such as storage capacity, type of usage and number of songs stored, as well as price range.
The product details are useful, and an average review score is a handy quick reference when you are thinking about buying a product in-store.
The product reviews can be viewed in more detail, but they could be presented in a way which would make them more readable. I like the idea of presenting pros and cons, but the text is tricky to scan, and the review score isn't shown alongside the user comments.
One thing that is useful in mobile price comparison is to show results from offline retailers, so people could easily go and buy the product from a competitor's store if they find a better price.
This app has a good range of retailers on board, from pure plays like Amazon and Dabs.com to well-known high street names such as John Lewis and Argos.
There is a challenge in monetising traffic through such apps when people are actually out shopping rather than clicking through and buying online, and while this is not impossible, the visit store links generally lead to sites that are not optimised for mobiles, making it difficult for customers to complete transactions through the app.
For retailers like Amazon, which has a site that is optimised for the iPhone, this is a much easier process, especially if you already have an Amazon account. If more people use mobile comparison apps and sites, there is an opportunity exists for retailers that are listed on these sites and also have a dedicated mobile website.
The app is a bit dull when compared to barcode scanning apps like Sccope, and there are a few improvements which could improve the user experience, such as better presentation of reviews.
However, it does the basic job of price comparison well, returning results across a large number of products, from a decent enough range of retailers to make it worthwhile, and a useful offline research tool for shoppers.