EBay’s Half.com launches first buying app with bar code scanning

With Half.com’s new iPhone applications targeting back-to-school shoppers, eBay has debuted its first buying application that integrates bar code-scanning technology.

The free Half.com application lets consumers and students scan bar codes directly into their iPhone to compare prices on textbooks, novels, games, DVDs and others items discounted at up to 50 percent.

“The new bar code scanning technology is the ultimate comparison shopping tool,” said Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile at eBay, San Jose, CA. “One quick scan and the best deals on the item you want are right at your fingertips.

“Consumers go from typing eight words for a textbook title to a click of button to find exactly what they want – thereby reducing the friction and time it takes to comparison-shop and buy online,” he said.

“With less friction and an entertaining technology, there is a cool factor for a younger generation of users that are mobile and highly engaged in mobile apps.”

Half measures
The application provides a database of more than 80 million items from 700,000 sellers. It lets consumers browse through the categories using a “popular item” search.

Here is a screen grab of the application’s bar code scanner in the application:

Once information such as item condition and seller feedback is entered, the Buying Wizard finds items that best match the criteria at the lowest prices and searches for discounted shipping options.

Consumers can use the “Social Media Sharing” option to post their finds on Facebook, Twitter and their email. The “Speedy Checkout” lets them enter payment, gift-card, coupon and shipping information to complete the transaction.

The Half.com iPhone application is available at www.ebay.com/movile.

Campus trips
“Young people are possibly the most mobile consumer that we have,” said Mr. Yankovich. “Half of all young people will own smartphones by the end of 2011, according to Nielsen research, making students a key demographic to reach.”

The application was launched through eBay’s free core iPhone application, available in eight languages worldwide.

Since its creation in 2008, the eBay application has been downloaded more than 11 million times. In 2009, eBay mobile’s gross merchandise volume was more than $600 million. This year, eBay’s mobile sales volume is projected at $1.5 billion on mobile.

Since its launch in 1999, Half.com has targeted students, offering the ability to buy and sell new and used textbooks, music, games, books and movies.   

EBay has been working to roll out more mobile applications with all its adjoining businesses, including Shopping.com and StubHub.com.

“Mobile is changing the way people shop, and eBay is enabling users to shop anytime, anywhere,” Mr. Yankovich said. “Consumers are decoupling from their desktop computers to shop when they are most comfortable and when they are inspired to make a purchase.”

Half.com is operating in a market that is equally attractive to other players.

For example, this month CampusBooks.com released a similar free application on the Android platform that enables bar code scanning. Once a book is scanned, the device then uses GPS to locate the cheapest buyback and highest sellback price locations nearby.

Other applications, such as Bar code Scanner or ShopSavvy, also enable bar code scanning for more encompassing purchases, but Half.com and CampusBooks.com are two that specialize in textbooks.

“Often students need to go to the bookstore for the list of textbooks needed and to identify the price at their campus bookstore” Mr. Yankovich said. “Therefore, the Half.com iPhone app is the perfect platform so that students can comparison shop on-the-go.”

Here is a Q&A with Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile at eBay, San Jose, CA.
Why did eBay choose to go mobile with Half.com?
eBay has been working to develop mobile apps for all adjacency businesses including Shopping.com and StubHub. Half.com is adding to this list, making shopping in a specific category, in this case media,– books, DVDs, video games– effortless and fun. 
 
Mobile is changing the way people shop, and eBay is enabling users to shop anytime, anywhere.

Consumers are decoupling from their desktop computers to shop when they are most comfortable and when they are inspired to make a purchase. Half.com consists of all media items, which have bar codes on their packaging, making it effortless to find and scan items.

Young people are possibly the most mobile consumer that we have,– half of all young people will own smartphones by the end of 2011, according to Nielsen research– making students a key demographic to reach. Often students need to go to the bookstore for the list of textbooks needed, and to identify the price at their campus bookstore.

Therefore, the Half.com iPhone app is the perfect platform so that students can comparison shop on the go.

What is Half.com’s marketing strategy?
Half.com’s goal is to deliver a wide selection of great deals on textbooks, novels, videogames and DVDs – over 80 million listings at any given time.

We are always looking for ways to drive awareness, consideration and access to the breadth of inventory on Half.com and to be the premier destination to buy and sell textbooks for college students.

Back-to-school is a peak shopping season for Half.com with a spike in textbook sales in July and August as well as November and December, as students prepare for school.

Half.com’s newly launched iPhone app is a key way to drive awareness of our brand and engage consumers on a new platform and with compelling bar code-scanning technology.

We can also take advantage of  eBay’s large mobile footprint consumers can click on the “eBay apps” folder in any of eBay’s iPhone apps to explore and download other apps in the eBay portfolio – reaching up to 11 million existing eBay iPhone users.

How will the bar code scanner enhance this strategy?
The new bar code scanning technology is the ultimate comparison shopping tool. One quick scan and the best deals on the item you want are right at your fingertips. Consumers go from typing eight words for a textbook tile to a click of button to find exactly what they want – thereby reducing the friction and time it takes to comparison shop and buy online.

With less friction and an entertaining technology, there is a “cool factor” for a younger generation of users that are mobile and highly engaged in mobile apps.

Already the global leader in mcommerce with $1.5 billion in gross merchandise volume expected this year through mobile devices, eBay builds on an already strong portfolio of mobile products with the introduction of bar code scanning as a powerful new way for buyers and sellers to list items for sale and find the best online product deals.

For Half.com, students can scan a friend’s textbook at the end of class or at the campus bookstore before they get back to their dorm room.

For mobile, it’s important to make transactions as quickly as possible, as people are often shopping on the go and have little time to complete a transaction.

Why did Half.com choose to roll out on the iPhone?
The iPhone has the highest level of engagement with mobile apps to date, compared to other platforms.

In addition, the iPhone’s large screen and high resolution camera make it an easy choice for a bar code scanning application. With over 11 million downloads of eBay’s core shopping app on the iPhone, we already know there’s a large segment of eBay users engaged on the iPhone.

Is Half.com extending to any other platforms?
Yes, we are considering other mobile platforms for a Half.com app. Stay tuned.

Final Take
Kaitlyn Bonneville, editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York