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Smartphone-based Personal Shopping Solutions-Threat to the Dedicated PSS Market?

The concept of delivering PSS functionality to shoppers via their personal devices continues to gain momentum with retailers, as evidenced by Stop & Shop’s recent introduction of an iPhone-based version of its “ScanIt!” PSS.

This development is particularly noteworthy for Stop & Shop. To date, the company has been one of the most aggressive deployers of PSS solutions in the US. Prior to the introduction of its iPhone application, Stop & Shop delivered PSS to its customers exclusively via company-owned and managed devices.

Eventually, smartphone-enabled PSS may present a serious competitive threat to dedicated device PSS solutions.  However, in the immediate term, we do not expect smartphone platforms to displace installed PSS solutions, or severly limit PSS opportunities. 

Any major disruption driven by smartphone platforms will be at least a couple of years in the making. Smartphone-enabled PSS is still in its nascent stages. The development of this technology—and exploration of its potential—has barely yet begun.

At present, dedicated, purpose-specific PSS have several important advantages over smartphone-based solutions:

  • Whereas smartphones rely on embedded cameras for scanning, PSS are built around actual barcode scanners. Adapting smartphone cameras for scanning reduces the speed, accuracy, and reliability with which customers are able to scan their purchases. For a technology whose primary value proposition to the customer is saving time, scanning related issues are the major drawback to smartphone-based PSS.
  • Some customers simply will not want to use their personal devices for scanning. Their reasons will vary from the practical (low battery, expecting a phone call, forgot to bring the device) to the more complex (security concerns).

  • Retailers will be concerned with the increased software demands associated with supporting smartphone-based PSS. Technology lifecycles with personal devices are extremely short—often 12 months or less—which will drive requirements for frequent and regular software updates, both for the customer-facing and enterprise-level solutions.

  • Security issues will be a prominent concern, particularly for retailers, who will need to ensure their enterprise data is entirely secure, and that customer information is absolutely protected. In regards to wireless connectivity, deploying organizations will need to consider carefully how they will grant the necessary network and data access to customers, while protecting sensitive enterprise information.From a customer perspective, security concerns may also be a potential barrier to adoption.

In the near term, the biggest threat smartphone-based solutions present to PSS suppliers is giving potential deploying retailers another reason to delay their PSS investment, as these organizations weigh costs, benefits, ROI potential, and alternative technologies.

Until smartphone scanning issues are fully resolved, we expect dedicated and smartphone-based PSS will coexist. The role of mobile devices in the PSS market is an issue we have discussed in depth with both hardware suppliers and ISVs as part of our research for Volume 3 of our Customer Engagement Technologies. We will cover this topic in detail in that report—contact us for more information.

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