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Biggest challenge facing mobile commerce is bar code scanning

Commerce over mobile devices, such as iPhones, is booming in the United States, according to Luke Knowles, founder of Coupon Sherpa and

Companies are introducing new ways for consumers to get coupon codes for online shopping and make purchases right from their handsets. Coupon Sherpa and have introduced an iPhone application that allows users to conduct a price comparison and see if they can get a better deal online versus an in-store purchase.

The free shipping app features coupon codes for price discounts as well as free shipping deals from participating merchants. Users can search by store or category. Mobile Marketer's Giselle Abramovich interviewed Mr. Knowles regarding mobile commerce and a new app that Free Shipping just launched.

What is this new application all about?
The Free Shipping Coupons application is a mobile version of the ( Web site. iPhone and iPod Touch users can access free shipping coupons to over 1500 stores and shop by store name and category.

What's the strategy behind it?
I believe that people will be using their mobile devices more and more to shop online. Recent statistics back this up.

Also, with the current state of the economy most people are trying to save a buck whenever and wherever they can. Because of this we thought the Free Shipping Coupons application would be very useful right now and going forward. We see this app as the perfect complement to the Coupon Sherpa ( application which has in-store coupons to 100+ stores.

One app is for saving money shopping online and the other is for saving money in-stores.

How does the free shipping aspect fit well with consumers' preferences, especially now when everyone is so worried about the economy?
Free shipping is easily the best promotion that consumers respond to. Seventy-eight percent of online customers said prohibitive costs of shipping discouraged them from making purchases online (E-tailing Group Survey, 2008) and 43 percent of shoppers abandon their shopping carts because of unexpectedly high shipping charges (Paypal, comScore, 2008).

We are seeing an increase in free shipping offers from merchants as they target shoppers who now come to expect free shipping when they shop online.

This is evident by the over 1500 merchants on that are currently offering free shipping. Last year at this time there was half that number on the site.

How do mobile and commerce go hand in hand? Why do the two work so well together?
The success of mobile commerce is tied to two things: technology and convenience.

Technology now allows us to easily do commerce over mobile devices. Mobile commerce will be a success because it is convenient to make purchases with the aid of a mobile device. We can now shop 24 hours a day and anywhere that has a 3G or wireless connection. If the technology wasn't there or if it wasn't convenient to shop with your phone, mobile commerce wouldn't succeed.

What is the current state of mobile commerce?
Mobile commerce is still in its infancy and is showing a lot of promise.

Some large companies like and Target have been quick to embrace mobile commerce by creating mobile-friendly versions of their websites or even applications.

Merchants are also trying to use mobile devices to get people to shop more in store. In recent years in-store shopping has been on the decline because of the convenience of shopping online.

Maybe mobile devices can bring them back.

Merchants that get on board right away with mobile commerce should stand the most to gain.

We saw the same thing with free shipping a few years back. was one of the first to offer free shipping (on orders over $25) which helped them to quickly gain market-share.

Others followed, but it is still who we talk about having free shipping, not or even though their free shipping offers are the same.

Where do you see it in the next few years?
Mobile commerce only has positive growth ahead of it in the next few years. I think of 2008/2009 of mobile commerce as the 1999/2000 of online shopping.

People will become more aware of and comfortable with shopping with their phones just as they did with shopping online instead of just at brick-and-mortar stores.

The adoption of mobile commerce should be quicker than it was for online shopping since we're passed the "identity theft" fear, and technology has made it quicker and cheaper for merchants to get on board with it.

In the coming years more smart phones will hit the market and less people will have old phones that don't allow them to participate in mobile commerce. This also will help people get onboard.

What are some best practices in terms of creating iPhone apps?
The number one thing that designers and developers of iPhone apps can do is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. The apps that take common tasks and make them very simple are the best apps.

Also, app developers should create apps that they would want to use or that would solve a problem in their own life. Other iPhone users will probably have a use for these apps to. We are probably the biggest users of our own apps.

What are some of the challenges in the mobile commerce arena? Any best practices on how to get around these?
The single biggest challenge facing mobile commerce is bar code scanning.

There are two types of bar code scanners: laser scanners (old technology) and optical scanners (new technology).

Laser scanners cannot scan bar codes on LCD screens but optical scanners can. Unfortunately most merchants have laser scanners.

Smart merchants have started to install optical scanners in their stores to take advantage of bar code scanning on mobile devices. In my opinion, this is a very good investment.

Apps that use bar codes, like Coupon Sherpa, need to make the bar code numbers large enough to be read and typed in by the cashier at checkout.