advertisement’s Mobile App Shops Offline: When You Gotta Shop, You Gotta Shop

Written by Evan Schuman
May 4th, 2011

No one knows this better than When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. And when you have to shop, you have to shop; there are no exclusions for mobile shoppers without a wireless signal.

Will this ability be valuable to shoppers stranded on airport tarmacs, in wireless deadspots or even in situations where battery conservation is ultra-critical?, which is part of the Quidsi group acquired by Amazon last month, borrowed the offline buying technique from SMS. The mobile app enables the consumer to shop without a signal, although it won’t complete the transaction until a signal is reestablished. It gets darn close, though, with a exec estimating that the “completion” will take 5 to 7 seconds—long enough for a password to be typed and two clicks. But there is a major downside, at least for now: The customer’s offline shopping can’t go beyond choosing previously purchased products.

Beyond the obvious limitations of offering such a short shopping menu, this approach will effectively exclude new shoppers who might be attracted by the offline option. Then again, those people would likely have to have an online connection to create their account.

The company seems to be caught between two extremes, with the prior-purchase limitation or creating a mobile app with a dramatically larger footprint to house all of’s 45,000 SKUs. Josh Himwich, Quidsi’s E-Commerce VP, projects the size of the full product-line version as more than 20 megabytes (a far cry from the regular app, which downloads in three seconds) and adds that the company is seriously prepared to offer it in a future version. Although that size is certainly mammoth by today’s M-Commerce app standard, next-generation mobile devices to be introduced this year should have more than adequate memory.

That larger version, which would presumably wait to download until it detects a nice and fast Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection, “would download the whole catalog and then, once a month, we could hand do updates,” Himwich said.

But why see extremes as the only option? Why not offer a version with the previously ordered options plus a few hundred of the site’s most popular products? Himwich argues that the very nature of’s clientele would make it difficult to find a few hundred products that would please enough of them to bother.

Unlike fans of its grandparent site—Amazon—typical customers of Quidsi’s do not shop there very often. Those sites, plus and, see their “typical customers” about five times a year, whereas the smaller group of “super customers” shop “sometimes every month,” Himwich said.

Even if those shoppers buy in bulk when they do buy, the universally most popular items may not speak to that many shoppers, he said, referencing the long tail phenomenon.

The ultimate in convenience for those offline shoppers would be to enable the transaction to be completed offline, assuming the consumers had been previously authenticated and registered their payment credentials. But Himwich said security issues are forcing the app to at least do a little online interaction.

“Any time you interact with any account information, you must reverify your credentials,” he said. “A local reverification isn’t a verification. Only the app has verified. We haven’t verified.”


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.