Startup Spotlight: Impulse m-commerce with Scan.com

Get the lowest online deals from the back of a taxi
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

The future is m-commerce with Scan, a new service that lets allows you to shop via the text message service on your ordinary mobile phone.

Forget PCs, ISPs and WAP -- SMS is the way forward, Scan.com argues, since it's already used by 27 million mobile users across the UK.

"Text messages have grown a great deal faster than the Internet," points out Robert Hamilton, 'Sultan' of Scan. "We are keen to get involved in mobile commerce rather than e-commerce."

Here's how it works: let's say you spot the new Delia Smith summer cookbook on display at Waterstone's. Instead of rushing roud to Books, etc. to check prices, you can simply type the book's bar code number into your mobile, SMS it to Scan, and within seconds you'll get a message back listing the lowest prices online.

Extra benefit: if you've registered on the site with your credit card, you can buy instantly with another text message. "The idea was born out of frustration" with the difficulty of comparison shopping, Hamilton says.

At the moment the service only extends to CDs and books, but Scan is set to expand into consumer electronics, toys and "anything else with a barcode".

A possible downside: makes impulse buying from the Internet a lot easier.

  • Service: Scan.com
  • What it does: Sends online deals to your mobile phone
  • How it works: Via SMS: you send the barcode number to Scan, it sends you the prices, with instant buying option
  • Who it's for: The price-conscious mobile shopper
  • What I can find there: Books, music, with more to come
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