Why Lasoo’s iPhone app will change the game for retailers

What now feels like a lot more than four years ago, John Battelle published a brilliant book about the rise of Google and the importance of search.  

The book was named, sensibly enough, The Search. Towards the end, Battelle turned to future gazing. Describing a process where a consumer might be able to walk into a store, and using a mobile device instantly compare availability and competitive price on a particular item at other locations nearby.

While it wasn’t implausible, at the time it still felt like a distant future. It was, after all, two years before the iPhone had even been invented.

But most of what Battelle described has now arrived, in Australia at least.

lasoo iphone appLast week, the website Lasoo quietly launched an iPhone application. By Sunday night it had been downloaded nearly 4000 times.

Until you think about its significance, it’s easy enough to dismiss it as just another app. But what it does is bring much closer for consumers the economic concept of the “perfect market” – where there’s total pricing and availability transparency.

The app – which does not yet feature all retailers but will become increasingly powerful as it does – allows a user to look up any item, find out if its available more cheaply elsewhere, and find out where that nearest outlet is.

Stores already listed in Australia include Target, BIG W, Coles, Dick Smith, Myer, Toys R Us, ALDI, Officeworks, Borders, Repco and IKEA.

For store marketers, it changes the game. Pricing and availability will potentially become a far bigger deal than marketing.

For instance, I bought a netbook a few months back. I started at Harvey Norman. Then I went to Dick Smith, where it was pricier, so I moved on. I ended up at JB Hi Fi. It was fractionally more expensive than Harvey Norman. But when I told the member of staff, they cut the price below that level. I could have gone back to Harvey Norman at that point, but I couldn’t be bothered, so I bought it.

What this app – once all the major retailers are signed up – will do is make it easier for the consumer to do that without trailing from store to store. Even more so once every item has a QR code as I’m sure they one day will.

And the beauty for consumers (and Lasoo) of this is that as more and more consumers use it, the more the pressure will grow on retailers to provide their information.

In the early days, there will be a small percentage of customers using it to gain an advantage. At that point, stores will no doubt keep power in the hands of their salesmen to discount as part of a a negotiation. The price on the label won’t be the real best price.

But as a growing number of consumers approach their shopping this way, the price on the app is going to become increasingly important in deciding who gets the punters’ business. That’s when it gets really interesting.

It’ll take a while for the shift to happen, but when it does, it will tip quickly.

I’m yet to try the app in the real world, but I’d be fascinated to hear how you go. It feels like a game changer.

Tim Burrowes


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