Amazon’s latest foray into the mobile shopping world has to be giving the bricks and mortar merchant a major headache. TextBuyIt allows a consumer to be in a store (or anywhere for that matter), text an item’s description or UPC code to Amazon and receive a free text message back with two product options, if they in fact stock the item. A simple press of a “1” or “2” on the mobile phone will trigger a prompt for the customer to enter her email address and the zip code associated with her account. That in turn, prompts a phone call from Amazon to the customer who is then walked through the final order process.
Those who have used it say that TextBuyIt is pretty slick, and apparently easy and quick. But, for the merchant, it is just another disruption to contend with at a time when a slowing economy and higher costs are already taking its toll on profit margins.
I have a couple of observations. First, TextBuyIt is a simple and apparently very user friendly way of easing all of us into mobile commerce. Amazon has organized its vast community of sellers and buyers around two basic and familiar mobile applications – texting and voice – and used them as the cornerstones for its mobile shopping experience. They have sidestepped the nasty arm wrestling with carriers, have circumvented the issues associated with payment method (customers use their existing Amazon account information) and are bringing mobile commerce to a variety of merchants who otherwise might not have the ability to reach customers via the mobile. TextBuyIt is just a simple extension of the online experience to the little handheld computer we call the mobile phone.
Second, TextByIt is relatively costless to the end user. Amazon’s text response is free. Even with the cost of the initial text and the call back from Amazon, given the savings offered to consumers — the opportunity to save money on the product, having the item delivered and avoiding standing in checkout lines — seems like enough of a good deal to interest a lot of people.
Third, in the category of unintended consequences, TextByIt might actually serve as a bit of a wake-up call for merchants. Rather than digging in their heels over this, merchants should rethink their value-add to the consumer. Time-challenged people today do value service, and providing a great customer experience, in many cases, trumps saving a few bucks. Many customers complain that the words “customer service” in the bricks and mortar environment are an oxymoron; perhaps when faced with a store full of people texting Amazon, merchants might reconsider their interactions with and offers to the assets that walk in and out of their front doors.
One can only imagine what some of the next steps for Amazon might be as it embraces the world of mobile commerce. Only time will tell how many consumers adopt such a service. Given the ubiquity of mobile phones and the simplicity of the TextByIt application, it does not seem like a stretch for it to catch on for categories like consumer electronics, household goods and yes, even books. For most physical merchants, mobile commerce will only enhance their existing customer interactions. Amazon’s latest move, though, could force them to rethink how to perfect their “core” product before first trying to tackle the new channel called mobile commerce.
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Filed Under: Mobile, New Business Models, Technology, consumers, Economics