Thursday, April 03, 2008

Amazon TextBuyIt

Everyone walks into a store with a mobile phone and virtually every product in a store has some type of barcode identifier. Marrying the these two apparently unrelated technical solutions could actually produce significant value to consumers. A few companies have attempted to produce a barcode reader software on a mobile here and here.

In the book world a number of booksellers using Amazon services have recognised the utility of combining a cell phone look-up service with the Amazon database. Essentially, booksellers looking for second hand titles to add to their stores can improve their selection and make better choices if they are able to tell if a book they see at a swap meet is in demand on the Amazon bookstore.

Amazon today announced a different approach to combining the cell phone with a look-up service. This one relys on SMS and lets customers use text messages to find and buy products sold on From the press release:

With the addition of TextBuyIt to Amazon's existing mobile offering, including its mobile site and mobile iPhone site, customers can now shop, compare prices, and buy from virtually anywhere they are, with any mobile device, using either text messages or their mobile device's web browser.

"With today's launch of TextBuyIt, any customer can now use any mobile device to shop and buy from, at anytime, anywhere they are," said Howard Gefen, Director of Amazon Mobile Payments. "With TextBuyIt, if you're walking out of a concert and want to buy a CD from the artist you just saw, or if you're at dinner and a friend tells you about a great book you should read, all you have to do is get out your mobile device, send a text message to Amazon, reply to the response, confirm your order, and your item will be on its way. It's incredibly simple and convenient."

In less than a minute and using only text messages, customers can find the product they are looking for and complete a purchase using TextBuyIt. Simply send a text message to "AMAZON" (262966) with the name of the product, search term or a UPC or ISBN code, and, within seconds, Amazon replies with the product or products that match the search, along with prices. To buy an item, customers simply reply to the text message by entering the unique single digit number next to the item they want. Customers will then receive a short phone call from Amazon with the final details of their order and asking them to confirm or cancel the purchase.

So imagine you want the personal experience of visiting a store with the potential advantage of better pricing online. All you need to do is text Amazon to check prices as you walk around a store. If the margin is wide enough you can buy from Amazon rather than the store or if you don't want to carry something home you can have Amazon sent it to you. Aren't we getting closer to the time when every physical retail store is a potential showcase for Amazon products?

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