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Sites That Bring Online Shopping Benefits Offline

There’s a giant retailing show happening this week, and both Intel (s INTC) and IBM (s ibm) released some retail-related technology news. IBM is detailing  a survey on a new class of price-and-experience sensitive shoppers it dubs Shifters, while Intel is focused on a new point of sale product that offers hybrid online/offline perks such as customer reviews and a screen that shows available inventory at the store.

Given these two news items, It seems like the Internet is changing our real-world shopping patterns and expectations by giving us access to more pricing information — moving us closer to some idealized state of frictionless consumption. Given that some things, such as groceries, are still hard to buy online, I started thinking of some companies that help bring the benefits of online shopping — such as comparing prices — offline. Below are a few. Feel free to share others in the comments.

Cellfire: The well-funded service brings coupons and mobile phones to your cell phone, addressing the price sensitivity as well as the convenience of not having to lug around actual paper coupons, which I always forget to pull out of my pocket. For the less technically savvy ( I can’t see my mom totally embracing mobile coupons) there’s this site, which uses your demographic information and where you shop to send out a weekly email newsletter of deals at local stores. It’s a simple service that allows a consumer to compare prices from the weekly grocery ads, which usually are delivered via newspaper. And no one gets newspapers anymore.

KeepCash: This site mostly offers online coupons, but it also has an iPhone application that lets you check to see if a product in a bricks-and-mortar store is cheaper online. Other retailers such as Amazon (s AMZN), have similar services that compare online and offline prices at individual retailers.

Grocio: This site seems awesome, but it hasn’t launched in my area yet. You tell it what you plan to buy at the grocery store and it shows you the best store in your area from which to buy those items based on cost.

6 Responses to “Sites That Bring Online Shopping Benefits Offline”

  1. Re: grocery shopping online, I believe a noteworthy exception is in New York which I have used myself — excellent selection, great user interface, terrific service — and which is thriving and expanding.

    As to online shopping comparison engines — or comparison entities offline — no doubt they are removing many of the pricing disparities that previously existed between different sources of the same product, but the information alone doesn’t necessarily provide a “frictionless” transactional environment from an economists perspective (having studied that field).

    It is a move in that direction, but ultimately leads us to a vendor where there may well be “limitations” / “restraints” on how products may be purchased — i.e., ultimately it is the “transaction” itself that needs to be “frictionless” and not the information alone which leads us to the transaction (although the access to “universal” information itself is indeed the starting point).

    One clear example that comes to mind is Dell — arguably a “commodity” product in the “commoditized” desktop marketplace and subject to “commoditized” pricing (all of which are arguably the result of a “frictionless market”) — where there is however a “plethora” of “offers” and “specials” (let alone configuration restrictions) which appear to change daily — each with their own particular “conditions” and “limitations”. These apply not only to “pricing” but as noted also to “configurations” of products, etc.. I.e., the information that lead us to Dell in this example may have removed some “friction” in pricing information generally speaking — but certainly not necessarily at the transactional level itself.

    Therefore, whereas I must agree that universal access to “open” information is the primary impetus towards frictionless markets by removing many of the disparities in pricing and even quality that exist between vendors — nonetheless at the “vendor level” the transaction often remains anything but “frictionless”.

    Therefore, shopping comparison / pricing information alone isn’t sufficient to provide a truly frictionless market unless the product itself is a true “commodity” and there are no obvious restraints / limitations on the transaction itself — which as noted in the case of Dell ( (sorry to beat a “dead horse” but is a good example I believe given as referenced above it is arguably a “commodity” product in the “commoditized” desktop marketplace and subject to “commoditized” pricing) certainly isn’t the case given the above identified numerous restraints / conditions / limitations introduced into the actual transactional process itself.

  2. Online grocery shopping has been excersied in France and it’s proved to be quite efficient. Some gets fresh vegetables/fruites delivered directly from the countryside directly.. wonder why it’s not working so much in the States?,,4102410,00-le-boom-du-e-commerce-alimentaire-.html

  3. Hi Stacy – good roundup for websites. I want to tell you about Dealio ( because it combines a comparison shopping engine, eBay search results, store coupons & community generated shopping deals in one search. Best of all – it’s easy enough that your mom and mine can use it.