See, it was the morning of my birthday, and my husband had finally listened to my demands for a new phone. The one I'd been using was...unfortunate. It had a cracked screen, squeaky flip cover and was covered in ancient layers of grime from my kids' sticky fingers. Texting on it was lesson in patience, fortitude, and dexterity. And texts from me looked something like this: "R U Th TXW THR THER ARGHHHHHH H8!!!!!!!! And so on.
From the start, iPhone both thrilled and terrified me, much in the way Karl Lagerfeld does to his celebrity muse du jour. It was my baby. The gods at Apple had entrusted it to my care, and I was going to do my best to learn it's quixotic and somewhat temperamental ways. Sometimes iPhone threw tantrums and randomly drained its own battery. On occasion, it butt-dialed small businesses. And iPhone's screen often went blank if tiled at a disagreeable angle. Oh, and there's also the fact that syncing to iTunes once resulted in the disappearance of EVERY SINGLE SONG I'D EVER PURCHASED. That was a very very bad day. But, eventually, we put our issues aside, and today our relationship is stronger than ever.
I've become quite attached to iPhone, and find it a necessary tool when trying to find a new thrift shop, do research on a blog post, or kill time waiting on a doctor's appointment. Sadly, though, I'm not the most technically advanced person, and often feel I'm not utilizing the phone as fully as I could be. Aside from purchasing books through Amazon's app I rarely use it for shopping. I find it challenging to examine items on a small screen, and the pages are often slow to load. Perhaps most frustrating, the process of entering information on a mobile keyboard requires either surgical precision or very teeny tiny fingers.
The New York Times recently explored the unexpected challenges retailers are experiencing with generating customers through mobile devices. Retailers report that only about 2 percent of their sales are coming from smart phones, well below the expectations of many e-commerce analysts.The potential for added revenue from mobile sales remains huge, retailers believe. EBay said that in 2010 it generated almost $2 billion in mobile sales, and is on track to double that this year.
But major retailers like Coach, J Crew, Urban Outfitters and Loft still do not have sites designed specifically for mobile phones - known as optimized sites - and nor do they have apps. By mid-2010, according to the Acquity Group, just 12 percent of the top 500 United States online retailers had sites compatible with mobile browsers, while just 7 percent had apps. Many sites that are not optimized require page after page of confirmations about shipping methods or credit cards, even for an existing customer who has logged in. Entering a credit card and a billing address and all that sort of stuff is truly frustrating when using a mobile device. It's clunky, and time-consuming, and usually results in a customer abandoning their order.
Christian Louboutain once famously asked, "What is an app?" admitting, "I'm a very bad technician. Technology, zero." However, more designers and fashion retails are warming up to the idea of e-commerce, and several biggies have rolled out iPhone apps to show off collections and allow users to shop. After a bit of research I did uncover a number of mobile fashion and shopping apps for my iPhone that are streamlined and relatively easy to use. Sadly, android users continue to have limited options, but increased attention on mobile sales will hopefully lead to the creation of android fashion and shopping apps in the near future.
Here are some highly rated fashion, style and shopping apps:
- Chicfeed: This app pulls photos from the internet's most respected style blogs, including The Satorialist and Lookbook. If you're seeking quick eye-candy, there's no better way to see loads of style photos all in one spot.
- Shopstyle Mobile: This site's spinoff app aggregates clothing and accessories from more than 100 e-commerce sites (Asos, Bluefly, and Neiman Marcus among them.) Explore indiscriminately, or search by keyword, brand, store, price, color, size and sale. If you find something you love, the app directs you to an online retailer.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is a website that lets you 'pin' photos and images from the web to a virtual bulletin board, and has a rabid following with bloggers. It requires an invite to join, though you can put your name on the miles-long waiting list for an account. Debuting this morning, the Pinterest app allows users to pin images through their mobile phones, browse other user's pins, reply and 'like' your favorite pins, and pin with your iPhone camera. It's a handy way to create a virtual shopping list and track trends.
- iShoes: Explore more than 50,000 shoes in the Finder, or search by style and designer. The app indicates which pairs are on sale and connects you straight to retailers.The iShoes app is free, and offers decent-sized close-ups of each item.
- Lucky at Your Service: Another free app, this one uses GPS, e-commerce and real-life staffers to locate editor-approved clothing, shoes, accessories and beauty products. Once you've found that amazing piece, the app directs you to the online retailer, and, in select cases, to a store within 50 miles that stocks it. Even better, the Lucky concierge team can call the store to place the item on hold for you. The concierge team sends you an email within an hour with details how you can pick up your new garment.
- Net-A-Porter (and Gilt Group): These genius apps for luxury clothing and accessories alert you every time their main sites are updated with new products.You can also create wish lists, purchase items, and read weekly fashion news.
- Sephora: This app puts everything you love about beauty products at your fingertips. You can browse products based on brand, new products, and online exclusives; look up specific shade names and formulations; watch expert tutorials; read product reviews; and get news on special online offers. You can also easily review past orders.
- eBay: The goliath of auction shopping, the eBay app allows you to seamlessly search for items and place bids. The app allows you to watch items, search by brand, price, and keyword, and links with Paypal to permit instant payment. It also provides personal recommendations of auctions based on recent purchases.
Do you have any favorite shopping and fashion apps? Do you use your mobile device for shopping? Would increased availability of retail apps encourage you to use your phone for shopping?