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Business

Shopping with your phone

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Friday, October 05, 2012    

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IF you don't want to shop alone, you can now do it with one of your closest companions — your smartphone.

Like most things today, technology, through mobile platforms, is changing the process of shopping and can in turn change retail and shopping behaviour, says Jamie Ranston, an "experience architect" at Shift Interactive.

Mobile technology is changing this process by empowering shoppers with the ability to gather information on the spot from multiple sources and check on product availability, he said yesterday.

But Jamaica has yet to adopt many of the shopping applications that are being used in the US, says Ranston, who believes that now is the time to do so.

"Access to technology cannot be the reason some mobile shopping applications can't work," he said.

Shopping is more than making a purchase — it's a process.

For the last few years, shoppers have done most of their product research at home, narrowing their selections before deciding on a purchase. No more.

ShopSavvy is one application used by shoppers in the US to help customers decide what to buy and where.

The application also helps retailers to reach customers.

In order to work locally, a comparative system will need to be set up, Ranston said. Businesses would have to share their inventory information with the developer of the application. This could then be converted into revenue, he said.

But, it all boils down to stores creating beneficial partnerships. That, Ranston said, would be a business venture into mobile technology.

Using supermarkets as an example, Ranston said an application that could point customers to supermarkets goods would be ideal. The information would have to be updated weekly.

The trend has gone towards smartphones over the last two years, people's phones have become a part of their routine, he said. Ranston believes that in a few years, more Jamaicans will use Androids, iPhones and other smartphones. So such application will be ready for Jamaica.

Shopping around and linkage between merchants and shoppers are examples of the capabilities of smartphones these days.

But, what of paying for items?

Recently, Walmart tested the Scan and Go iPhone application, that would allow shoppers to scan items using their iPhones and then pay at a self-checkout counter, a move that could trim checkout times and slash costs for retailers.

Though Ranston agrees that an application like Walmart's would take time to come to Jamaica, he believes that persons can make transactions with their phones once the regulatory framework is put in place.

The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) is setting up regulations that allow person to get money from their phone.

The development is the latest move in the long history of digital transactions, starting with systems that allowed the transfer of millions of dollars between banks.

Mobile money, also known as mobile payments, are financial services currently offered on mobile phones.

Operators around the world have been experimenting with mobile phones, chips and SIM cards as payment systems, the BoJ said.

"Innovations in the area of mobile payment have been adapted to an extent in Jamaica," it said. It added that the provision of guidelines would define the criteria that operators in the retail payment sector must satisfy.

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