Commerce Weekly: Facebook continues its mobile acquisition spree

Facebook buys Karma, strategies to battle showrooming, and grocery shopping gets mobile.

Here are the commerce stories that caught my attention this week.

Facebook acquires social gift-giving app Karma

Karma iPhone ScreenshotThe media focus on Facebook’s IPO might be missing the point — as Michael V. Copeland points out in a post at Wired, the IPO is really about the cash Facebook now has on hand to continue its acquisition spree. And that’s just what it did. On the heels of the market’s closing bell last Friday (May 18), Facebook announced its acquisition of Karma, a mobile ecommerce app that facilitates social gift giving — what some analysts are calling the next big mobile commerce boom.

IDG News’ Cameron Scott points out in a post at PCWorld that mobile is where Facebook needs to focus now, as “it currently generates less revenue per user [in mobile] than it does on the desktop.” He notes that Karma already is integrated with Facebook and describes how the app works:

“Karma allows users to buy gifts from its catalogue from their mobile phones. Recipients receive a text message notifying them of the gift and directing them to a website where they can exchange it if they want to and enter their shipping address.”

Chris Preimesberger over at eWeek.com reiterates Facebook’s need to “monetize interaction with its subscribers in better fashion on mobile devices” and provides a nice roundup of Facebook’s mobile-related acquisitions to date.

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If you can’t beat “showrooming” …

Raise your hand if you’ve showroomed. I’m certainly guilty, and much to retailers’ dismay, this type of shopping behavior is becoming more common. Mobile Commerce Daily reports this week on a new study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) that shows “53 percent of mobile commerce users have stopped an in-store purchase as a result of using their mobile phone.” Joe Lazlo, senior director of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence at the IAB told Mobile Commerce Daily the practice of showrooming isn’t likely to go away:

“Mobile shoppers today use their mobiles to save them time or money or both — mobile shopping helps make them more efficient. And since we all love to make the best use of our time and money, these kinds of behaviors are likely to spread and become mainstream really quickly.

“Fighting this trend is certainly going to be a losing strategy, so I predict that savvy marketers will learn to live with, and even court, these newly empowered consumers, who can and do leave a store if they discover a better deal somewhere else.”

Staff contributors from McKinsey & Company call this situation a “retail store apocalypse” in a post over at Forbes. The group says, however, that “showrooming shouldn’t be a show stopper. These digital shoppers are ready to buy. Excelling at multichannel sales is today’s must-have capability, and retailers must adapt if they want to survive.” They offer seven practical strategies to avoid succumbing to the apocalypse. Some highlights include establishing your store as an authority on your products, making use of data — or learning to — to better target consumers on an individual level, and re-imagining the role of your retail store as more of a service hub. You can read more on these ideas and their other suggestions here.

Mobile disrupts the grocery store checkout line

Stop & Shop iPhone ScreenshotMore and more, consumers are incorporating mobile into retail shopping, but what about grocery shopping? According to Kunur Patel in a post at AdAge Digital, the focus of mobile in grocery stores has more to do with in-store shopping behavior and convenience rather than online grocery competition. She points to loyalty program company Catalina Mobile and describes how it’s testing the mobile grocery shopping waters, in part by targeting the big grocery store dice roll — choosing the fastest checkout line. Patel writes:

“[Catalina Mobile] is behind mobile apps in 110 of Ahold USA’s Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Here’s how it works: A shopper walks into the store, opens the store-branded app and receives offers based on their shopping history. To skip the line at checkout, shoppers can scan barcodes of items they put into the cart to buy the haul right on the phone. Catalina says the app will be available in 200 more Stop & Shops this summer.”

Patel also highlights Coupons.com’s app Grocery iQ:

“Shoppers create lists in the app by scanning barcodes or typing in entries, then the app organizes those items by aisle. The most recent [app] update ports coupons into the search tool so that, say, a shopper may add one brand of yogurt to the list over another because Coupons.com offers 50¢ off.”

Unless the consumer is shopping at a participating store with a loyalty card that syncs with the app, the coupons will need to be emailed and printed.

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