December 2010

When you head to the mall for holiday shopping this year, take along an LBS (location-based service) shopping app. These helpful assistants can earn you points and merchandise credits, tip you off to hot or limited-time special offers, round up coupons from local merchants, and tell you where to buy that special do-dad for Grandpa.

Location-enabled social networking and shopping apps have been all the rage since Facebook rolled out its Places service this past August, which allows you to see where your friends are and share your real-world location with others. More and more people are “checking-in” at their favorite places through such popular apps as Gowalla or Foursquare, and local merchants are even joining in and offering special deals and incentives for coming to their location.

LBS shopping apps do a lot more than just push coupons: Groupon proved that bargain-hunting can be a community activity. Stickybits lets you attach a text, voice, or video review to any product based on its barcode. You earn points in SCVNGR (pronounced “scavenger”) by completing challenges, such as answering a trivia question.

Monocle, an augmented-reality app from Yelp! helps you know where to shop by showing you the stores, restaurants, and other businesses around you. Monocle floats red boxes on top of a smartphone’s camera display that show details about businesses in the general direction your cellphone is pointing. The boxes list the business name, category, phone, address, and rating, with click-through to that store’s Yelp! page. Monocle knows where you are and calculates your direction from movement. It’s eerie to stand in your living room and watch the businesses in your neighborhood floating in front of the drapes, but Monocle is really helpful when you’re lost at the mall.

Lots of LBS-enabled shopping assistants have hit the market since Labor Day, and each one is not necessarily suited for every person. Each app offers different information, deals, and rewards. Here’s a guide to the LBS shopping apps you should take along this holiday season, based on your personal holiday shopping style:

Happy hunting and happy holidays, everyone!

You: You’re so on top of things. You buy gifts throughout the year whenever you see something that’s “just right,” and remember where you hid them. Everything gets mailed the Monday after Thanksgiving, including the cards.

You Need: Services that reward loyalty so you can build up points and merchandise credits to buy that special gift for a song. Watch for offers that pop up when you check-in.

LBS App: Yelp!, MyTown, Geodelic Sherpa, SCVNGR, WHERE, Shopkick

Bargain Hound
You: Your favorite price is FREE, and you break into a happy-dance in the checkout line whenever that happens. Your passion for bargains is undimmed by the holiday spirit. You’re willing to be “flexible” about what you give someone as long as you get a great bargain. After all, who doesn’t need a ‘Pocket Fisherman?’

You Need: Services that offer massive discounts on local products. Search for deals around you based on your current location, wherever you go.

LBS App: Groupon, Offeretti

You: You need to know everything about every product before you buy: specifications, reviews, warranty, price, delivery, and and and. Your passion for detail sometimes causes you to lose out on the best offers, but so what? At least you know for sure you bought the very best ‘gizzywomper’ on the planet.

You Need: Services that use barcodes to pull up detailed product information and related social content (reviews, photos, stories). Barcode apps can display alternative places to buy the product, competing prices, and more.

LBS App: Google Shopper, Whrrl product scan, bako¯do¯, stickybits

You: You like hanging out with your friends at the mall, and “seeing and being seen” in the coolest shops. It’s fun to know who’s here and text them about what you’re looking at or buying. OMG!

You Need: Services that let you see where your friends are, poke or message them, and share what you’re buying or thinking about buying.

LBS App: Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Google Latitude, Whrrl, InCrowd

You: It’s December 24th. You are at the mall and not leaving until all of the names on your gift list are crossed off, one way or the other. Bargains are appreciated, but who has time to find them? Where to start?

You Need: Services that trigger shopping offers based on where you are, so you can scoop up nearby specials. You need a virtual guide to the mall to help you zero in on promising targets.

LBS App: Offeretti, Foursquare, Groupon. Don’t forget to open Groupon to check for nearby deals. Yelp!, Layar. Find the stores around you and their ratings with Yelp!’s Monocle or Layar.

Bonus Help for All Styles
Pay attention to digital or TV displays inside stores. Many of these are programmed with special offers including QR (quick response) codes that can be clicked for rewards and discounts. Some display a Twitter stream of tweets sent from inside the store, or interact with a smartphone app to push offers and coupons to your cellphone. Watch for QR codes on signs within the store, which may offer discounts.

Laurie Lamberth endured weeks of shopping to test out these apps. Contact Laurie or learn about her strategic business development and marketing consultancy at

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