Shopping Anytime, Anywhere
By Kathleen Lane, Tue Mar 20 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Snaz takes m-commerce one step further.


Imagine you are having dinner with a friend. She can't stop talking about the book she just finished reading. She loved it and knows that you'd love it too. You decide that you would like to give the book a try.

At this point you have two options: (1) buy the book the next time you are on the Web or in a bookstore - hoping you don't forget the name of the book or that your desire to read it does not wane, or (2) purchase the book on your mobile phone straight away after comparing prices to find the most competitive deal. And while you're at it, you might as well purchase the sweater your friend is wearing - but in your favorite color.

If option two sounds compelling, look no further than Snaz, the New York-based web and wireless commerce solutions provider. Snaz provides m-commerce customers with a single point of access to many top retailer sites through wireless devices, PDA's and WAP enabled phones.

With a single shopping cart, Snaz's mobile customers can move freely from the Gap to OfficeMax with a single point of purchase. And they not only offer one stop shopping, but they also allow customers to compare prices across many retailers. Book lovers, for example, can compare prices of the latest bestseller from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Borders before making a purchase.

Snaz has enlisted well-known, respected merchants, including Buy.com, 1800Flowers.com, The Sharper Image, OfficeMax and Gap, among others. But Snaz isn't just interested in American merchants, they have also recently partnered with Roger's AT & T Wireless, Canada's largest wireless communications provider, to launch a wireless shopping mall. Canadian customers will soon be able to browse, search, price compare and checkout effortlessly across multiple retailers from the palms of their hands. Snaz has also been able to expand into the UK, German and French mobile markets by partnering with Palm and 12snap.

Vikram Chachra, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Snaz, took time out of his busy schedule to chat with TheFeature.com about his company's unique service offering and how he envisions the development and adoption of m-commerce services.

TheFeature: Considering Snaz was founded in 1999, you were a bit ahead of the m-commerce curve. Did you find it hard convincing retailers to join your wireless pursuit of commerce?

Vikram Chachra: We were certainly ahead of our times when we began recruiting merchants for wireless commerce. However, we beat the chicken and egg problem by offering top merchants hassle free integration into our wireless transaction platform. We have emerged as a dominant wireless distribution partner for our merchants. In fact, Snaz has already placed its leading merchants on major mobile portals like Palm, Nextel, Omnisky and Rogers AT&T.

TF: How many merchants have signed on so far? What is the global reach of your service?

VC: Our global network includes 350 top tier merchants from the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Spain. We will also be expanding our reach deeper in Europe and into Asia in the coming quarters.

TF: What type of m-commerce experience are consumers looking for? Do they normally have a targeted approach (i.e., I am looking for a book) or are they browsing as if through a shopping mall?

VC: Consumers are motivated to use m-commerce applications that save time, provide up-to-date information on products, facilitate time sensitive transactions and guarantee security.

Consumers also tend to connect to the wireless Internet for shorter periods of time compared to fixed line Internet services. The current WAP experience at 9.6 kbps is best optimized for a more targeted approach to wireless shopping like executing search and buy and transactions.

TF: Will consumer behavior change once 3G is fully realized?

VC: With 3G, the mobile terminal will emerge as the primary content delivery platform globally, leading many users to own only one Internet terminal: the 3G handset. Consumer reception to wireless data has been very enthusiastic at higher speeds and faster connection speeds. The 2 most popular wireless data services - NTT DoComo's i-mode service and SMS - are both packet-based and provide an always-on connection to the mobile user. The growth of m-commerce hinges not only on its unique facilities but also on drivers like 3G that will speed up the broad adoption of the wireless data medium.

TF: Do you think consumers will embrace or repel location-based services? Do you have any plans to incorporate location-based services into your service offering?

VC: Addressing the right context for each consumer is key for the success of location-based services. In some cases, identifying the consumers' personal context is easier. Sending a store discount alert to mobile users when they are inside a shopping mall will have a higher conversion rate than when they are walking down any street. We are currently working on integrating location-based services into our m-commerce offerings.

TF: Have you been happy with the uptake of your m-commerce services?

VC: We created a carrier class commerce platform designed on generic specifications gathered from some of the largest mobile operators around the world. As a result, the response from mobile operators to our platform and product lines has been nothing short of fantastic. Consumer adoption over the last year, with some of our early partners like Palm and Nextel have been very heartening.

TF: So what's your prediction? When will m-commerce be adopted by the mass market?

VC: M-commerce adoption is not hinged on the 3G rollout. In the near term, m-commerce adoption depends on faster connection speeds, lower pricing, (preferable flat rates) and a more compelling selection of time-sensitive transactions like tickets for travel & entertainment, betting, lottery etc. Most leading mobile operators will deploy m-commerce applications on their networks in 2001 and have indicated mass adoption in 2 years time.

Vikram brings several years of experience in technology, manufacturing and bond trading. As CSO, Vikram is responsible for defining the company's corporate strategy and for providing vision and direction to the company.

As editor-in-chief of TheFeature.com, Kathleen Lane dabbles in everything from business development to marketing to writing the occasional story. She is based in Helsinki, Finland.