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I wrote an article about the quality of shopping comparison sites on mobile a few weeks ago, and was disappointed by the quality of most of them.
Reevoo and Kelkoo both had useful iPhone versions, and Reevoo has further improved its app by adding price information and transactional functionality, but most were less useful than they could have been.
I've been looking at another entrant into the market, Sccope, as well as talking to CEO Douglas Orr.
Sccope launched the web version of its comparison service back in October, and only launched the dedicated iPhone site last week. It also provides a useful SMS price comparison service.
I've been looking at the iPhone site to see how it compares with other mobile comparison services...
The home screen is clear and easy to use. You can simply search by product or keyword, or else limit that search to a particular product group. Sccope currently provides price information for products like books, DVDs and electrical goods.
Sccope is an offshoot of Cogenta, a company which provides pricing intelligence for UK retailers to help them to keep up with competitors. The mobile service uses this pricing information, and according to CEO Douglas Orr, this gives them the edge over other price comparison sites:
This morning, for instance, we collected over 3.5m prices from retailer’s websites. Unlike comparison sites which rely on feeds from retailers and can often be out of date, we are in control of making sure that the content is there and up to date. Prices change rapidly in the retail business, and this gives us an advantage.
I tried searching for an iPod Touch on Sccope, and it does provide a good range of prices, including many from high street retailers, which is more useful when you are shopping offline and want to make sure you are getting a good deal.
Offline shopping is made easier by the store location option, which shows the nearest retail outlets on Google Maps, a good use of the iPhone's capabilities.
It also does a good job in providing the information that people are looking for, product description, whether the item is in stock (on the website at least), as well as delivery charges. It will also provide an address and phone number for the nearest store.
Sccope has produced a very good site for mobile users, which delivers a good user experience, clear pricing information, with some extra touches like mapping which the other mobile comparison sites don't have.
One thing that is lacking though, and which would be a very useful service for shoppers, is user product reviews. Here, Reevoo has an advantage due to the sheer range of reviews it can provide for most electrical products. Sccope needs to find a way to provide this kind of information to make it a more compelling service.
Unlike some others, Sccope does provide links to purchase products from retailers' sites via the iPhone's web browser, though Douglas acknowledges the potential mobile usability issues users can encounter once they leave the app and enter a website that hasn't been optimised for small screens:
Only about one in a hundred retailers has a site that makes it OK to buy from on mobile. Others will have to respond eventually or Amazon, which has produced a usable mobile e-commerce site, will snap up the market.
There are other potential solutions to overcome this issue, such as services like Blackberry Wallet, which stores users' payment details securely and saves them the work of typing details in on a mobile.
Sccope has the same obstacles to overcome as other mobile comparison services, in working out a way to monetise the service, especially if users are buying offline. Sccope is still in beta though, and it is early days for mobile commerce:
It’s early days but we want to establish a presence on mobile ,and can earn money through banner ads to cover costs by delivering customers with a high level of purchase intent. We are looking at the longer term picture.
At the moment it is about price checking, but long term we want to create a proper shopping and browsing experience on mobile. If we can provide a compelling experience it can work. A good mobile app should encourage 'data-snacking' – people on the move, waiting for trains etc, who want to check prices, do some research and come back to it later and pick up where they left off.
Sccope has produced a very promising mobile service so far, and has done very well to get some useful promotion from Vodafone, which included it in its mobile application platform. There is an iPhone app coming out soon, so Sccope could be one to watch out for.