Looking for an innovative way to help your business cut costs? Look no further than your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. The ubiquitous smart phone can now double as a barcode scanner, thanks to apps available for each platform. The concept is simple: employ your smart phone’s camera to capture the UPC or EAN barcode on a product in any store. Then rely on the app to search the internet for the reviews, places to buy, and the best pricing. It’s ideal for small business owners that are always on-the-go – whether you’re trying to decide if that book on social media marketing or managing customer relationships is worth the reading time, or looking for the cheapest place to buy a new laptop for your business.
Here’s a quick list of barcode apps available for your smartphone, where to get ‘em, and what the buzz is on each:
RedLaser: RedLaser is a free option, updated Oct. 13, and compatible with operating system 4.0 or later. With over 53,000 reviews across all the versions, and a total ranking of 4 stars, plus searches of eBay and Half.com, it’s a great bet for finding the lowest prices on your iPhone. Plus, a free SDK download makes it easy for you to develop your own iPhone barcode applications.
Shop Savvy: This free app boasts a user base of more than 5 million, and offers the additional functionality of Price Alerts – so you get notification when an item’s price has dropped into your range. The latest version hit the streets Nov. 1, so it’s hot off the press, and requires operating system 4.0 or later.
ScanLife Barcode Reader: The free ScanLife Barcode Reader offers basic price comparison functionality, but in spite of the price tag, the app didn’t fare well with users (many cited that the app returned no results, or inaccurate results for items scanned). The newest version was released Oct. 26, and is compatible with Blackberry software 4.2.0 and higher.
Barcode Scanner: ZXing Team’s free Barcode Scanner app ranked 4 out of 5 stars based on the reviews of over 100,000 users, and offers the same price-look-up and review technology as the other apps. The newest version debuted Oct. 27.
Shop Savvy: Also available for your Android! Get the scoop in the iPhone section above, but download the Android app here:
Like most tech tools, there are upsides and downsides to these barcode apps. UPC and EAN barcodes make it easy to compare prices across vendors. When a product is manufactured – like your social media marketing book, for example – the manufacturer labels every copy of that book with a UPC or EAN barcode. It’s identical for every copy of that book, regardless of where the product is sold. So by simply scanning the barcode, you can compare prices for all the stores that carry that particular book, which is great for businesses and consumers looking to cut costs. Some big-box vendors get around this by requesting unique configurations from manufacturers (this is common on pricey items like refrigerators and washing machines), so consumers can’t price shop the competition. Bummer. Then there’s the service consideration. Across-the-line price comparisons are great for inexpensive items that you purchase frequently. Unfortunately, barcode apps don’t take reputation or service level into account when it comes to vendors. So if you’re looking for a product that you anticipate needing service or support for, steer clear of these apps (or commit to doing the legwork on your potential vendors).
Are you using a barcode scanner app to help your business save time or money? Share your thoughts in the comments.