by Gabriel Soto, recent MCDM graduate
For one of the MCDM classes, Mobile Development and Integration with Kelly McIvor, we are supposed to do something with Mobile every week and blog about it. I was running out of ideas; I even recorded a song on mobile devices for the sake of school. After one of my trips to the local comic book shop I had this great idea of comparing in store prices with on-line retailers prices.
It is already known that online influences our decision-making in offline shopping. Comscore.com published an article in 2006 about the subject. Nielsen also publishes article about the subject. But my idea was not to explore how online influences my decision-making process, but how online can change my way of buying.
I needed to buy a new graphic novel (comic book) for my class with Rob Salkowitz. Before doing it, I installed Amazon mobile app on my iPhone and went to the comic book store.
There I wanted to buy a couple of graphic novels for my collection and the required reading for class (Star Trek graphic novel about Nero), but the one that I really needed wasn’t available. So, I pick the graphic novel of my choice, Maus by Art Spiegelman (really good one, highly recommended and it won the Pulitzer) and open my iPhone. With the search functionality on Amazon Mobile, you can either take a picture or scan the bar code. I used the bar code and the result was this:
I was impressed! I compared the prices online with the book that I had on my hand. A new version was cheaper (U$19.65 on Amazon vs U$25 on store) and Amazon mobile also gives you the option of a used book, which in that case would have saved me ten bucks. Also, in one touch I saw reviews and found that this product had free shipping.
Again, impressed. I had a serious internal debate in my head because of this app: I’m a college student without job (I still can’t work on the US, more three months and I’m ok), so the extra seven buck would be handy, but I felt like I needed to support these kind of stores, that have been dying because of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
In the end, I decided to buy from the store (a comic book shop called The Comic Stop, on 45th and University Way) because I really like the store and they have an awesome crew. But this debate is super interesting: one more way that mobile can change our experience. We already do research online before buying products. There’s no need to plan a purchase in advance – just open Amazon Mobile and scan the barcode and you will have the reviews, rating, and similar products. You can compare prices and even buy online.
What can small stores and offline retail stores do to fight against this? A couple of stores, like Guitar Center and Best Buy already say that they beat any online prices. But those big stores can afford loosing a little bit of money on one product, because they are big and because they know that if you go on the store instead of doing it online you will probably buy more than your desired good, like I did when I bought a new bass guitar on Guitar Center and ended up buying batteries (it’s an active bass guitar), a gig bag and strings.
But how small stores fight this? They can’t afford to beat Amazon’s highly competitive prices. In this particular case, I don’t even need to go on Amazon to buy comics, I can use Comixology (an app for buying and downloading comics, like Kindle but just for comics and graphic novels) and have all the comics that I want without leaving home.
One thing that struck me through this test was the service, the human factor and the tips that I get when I go to that comic shop. Amazon can do almost everything but they can’t replace the human factor, so if I owned I small mom and pop store, I would invest in great customer service. I would say that I would do more than that, I would invest in create great relationship with my customers.