The service allows consumers to search among 7 million products from 30 online retailers such as eLuxury, eBags, JC Penney's, Wal-Mart and Target, which have an opportunity to tie promotions and ads to Sprint's mobile Web application.
While television or radio ads won't promote the service, Sprint spokeswoman Emmy Anderson says the Kansas City, Mo.-based carrier will market Mobile Shopper through text messages sent to some of its 54 million voice subscribers. A link on Sprint's Web site provides a demonstration and literature to educate consumers.
Sprint has been the most aggressive carrier when it comes to getting voice subscribers to sign up for data services, says Julie Ask, wireless analyst at JupiterResearch.
Consumers have some interest in making purchases through cellular phones, but it's still a nascent market, Ask admits. "Promotions will become a factor for driving purchases through cell phones," she says. "Triggers will come from impulse buys through advertisements, special deals and expiring offers like tickets or something else out of the ordinary."
There are hurdles to adoption. Retailers and wireless carriers have been pushing consumers to purchase goods and services through their cellular phones for years. Still, only 12% of U.S. households with mobile phones use their carrier's data service that enables most mobile commerce activities, but as adoption of these services accelerates, retailers and subscribers can expect to see some changes, according to Forrester Research.
Security and privacy issues remain the biggest concerns for consumers. While mobile commerce is similar to online purchases, adoption will struggle due to security and privacy fears, according to analysts. In fact, 57% of the 5,055 U.S. and Canadian wireless device owners who participated in the survey worry about the security of their data when using their phone to pay for goods or services, and 56% have privacy concerns, according to Forrester Research. The NACTAS Q3 2006 Retail Online Survey cites only 20% who said they had no concerns at all.
For consumers willing to brave the obstacles, purchases are made by clicking an icon located on the main menu of the subscriber's data-enabled phones. Accounts set up with a personal identification number either on the cellular phone or online in advance allow consumers to pay by credit card or PayPal Mobile Checkout, which eBay launched in July.
Charges appear on the subscriber's credit card statement. Sprint data subscribers can access Mobile Shopper at no additional charge to make quick price comparisons and purchases directly from handsets.