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iPhone App Round Up

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Retailers are launching innovative applications for the iPhone and iPod touch to reach consumers in new ways.

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Mobile-commerce is expected to be a hot topic among retailers in 2009, and all eyes will be on the big players to see which will make the biggest strides in the emerging channel throughout the year.

Here’s a look at how three companies have already caught attention in the m-commerce space by launching shopping applications for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch:

Amazon: Launched last month, Amazon’s shopping app offers an easy way for users to search and browse for products offered by Amazon and thousands of retailers, such as Target and Macy’s. It also gives consumers the opportunity to access Amazon’s popular shopping features, such as Customer Reviews, and purchase using 1-Click Shopping and Amazon Prime. (Amazon Prime is the company’s membership program that—for a $79 annual membership fee—gives families ‘all-you-can-eat’ fast shipping for the year).

But what sets the Amazon.com app apart from virtually every other competitor with an m-commerce channel right now is its cutting-edge “Amazon Remembers” function. This tool helps customers keep track of items they see in their daily lives and tries to match photos of products to those available on Amazon.com.

After downloading the free Amazon.com application for the iTunes App Store on an iPhone or iPod touch device, consumers can snap photos of any product they want and send Amazon the image by automatically uploading it to the site. Minutes later, Amazon sends back a list of products similar to the photograph.

Users can then click on the products they want and have immediate access to ratings and reviews, a product-comparison tool and the “Buy Now” button. Consumers can also “remember it” for later in their Amazon account.

Amazon.com covers all of its bases with follow-up communication as well. It sends an e-mail to alert the user that the product has been located, along with a link to purchase it. Amazon.com also personalizes the user’s homepage by showing them the sent image, and again giving them the product link.

GiftCertificates.com: Also looking to tap into the mobile-commerce market is Omaha, Neb.-based GiftCertificates.com , an e-commerce site that sells retail gift cards. The company recently launched the first iPhone application that allows customers to select, personalize and purchase gift cards directly from their iPhone or iPod touch without the need to go to an outside Web site. San Francisco-based Trillusion Media, Inc. developed the GiftCards application for GiftCertificates.com.

GiftCertificates.com, and its application, offers a variety of gift cards in different categories, including apparel, electronics, department and specialty stores.

Using the GiftCard application on mobile devices, customers can browse a variety of brands, including REI, Macy’s and Gap, to purchase and send physical or e-gift cards with personalized messages using contacts from their address book.

The GiftCards application also uses the iPhone’s GPS capabilities to show the nearest location of a vendor’s store.

Target: For the iPhone and iPod touch, Target launched an innovative application over the holiday season called The Target Gift Globe. Designed by San Francisco-based digital-marketing company AKQA, the application acts as a virtual snow globe.

After downloading the application, users could shake their iPhone, while digital snow fell in the globe and a gift idea from the retailer appeared. Users could then click through to Target’s site to purchase the product or locate nearby stores.

The application was created after the chain learned the majority of its mobile-site traffic comes from iPhone users. It will be interesting to see how Target evolves the application in the future.

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