mCommerce: GPShopper Turns Cell-phones into Sell-phones

It’s the night before your wife’s birthday and you’re scrambling to find that perfect gift, and not just any gift will do. She’s had her heart set on a rare Lionel Ritchie box set and you’ve got two hours before every mall closes its doors. If you’d hit up Amazon six weeks ago you wouldn’t be in this jam.

Now imagine you could whip out your cellphone, perform a quick search and tap into a database of over 85 million products from 30,000 retail stores tagged by zipcode. Entering a keyword, UPC code, product name or model number would deliver a list of stores by distance from where you are right now (in the McDonald’s drive thru lineup) along with prices. And you can view product images, descriptions and even pay for the product while your apple pie is being boxed. Then your cellphone gives you GPS enabled directions (unlike the sometimes unreliable MapQuest) to pick up your order.

Sound like the distant future? It’s already here. GPShopper has made it happen and introduced a new advertising channel for offline retailers (or etailers with physical stores), with top etailers like BestBuy, Toys R Us and Staples already on board.

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The product is called Slifter (I can’t get over that it sounds a bit like social network for shoplifters) and it’s available to cellular customers with GPS enabled phones and mobile web plans in the US for $1.99 per month (Sprint network) plus applicable web-surfing charges.

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(Screenshots from the Flash Demo)

If you are an etailer with a physical location or multiple locations, Slifter is a great opportunity. GPShopper provides detailed analytics for you to track product views, which products shoppers save to their shopping list or text message to friends, and even which store locations they prefer. The program uses a pay-per-click model, where you pay when a searcher clicks on your offer in search results (so they have compared your price and proximity pre-click). There are also opportunities for banner advertising and SMS messages for broadcast your deals.

Although Slifter’s user base is small at the moment, the concept makes a lot of sense. More people have access to a cellphone at any given time than a computer. And despite the popularity of online shopping, people still do like to shop locally or do not have time to wait for a product to ship. The ability to pay for goods with a cellphone is another convenience we can expect to gain acceptance. (Slifter’s payment processing uses PayPal Mobile Checkout).

You can access Slifter for free via SMS (text “SLIFTER” to 75438), wireless web, or java application download on almost any mobile carrier/device combination. You can also try Slifter online but as far as I could tell playing with it, results only pointed you to comparison engines like Shop.com anyway, or Overstock.com which would be found in any given comparison engine. (I could have really missed the mark with my test searches for “Barbie car” in zipcode 90210 — hey I’m Canadian, that’s the only zipcode I know!) Nevertheless, the search functionality is clunky and awkward and you might as well go directly to a regular search engine or comparison engine. Otherwise, I wish I could try it with my Canadian cellphone. Have you used Slifter or are advertising with this channel? If so, drop a comment!

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