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Cut the Strings

Is your Web site feeling confined? Go wireless, and set it free.

Last year, Smartshop.com Inc., a free comparison-shopping service for online shoppers, began to consider making its site compatible with the new wireless Internet technologies. "We looked at the indicators and found that wireless was growing like mad," says Tim Musgrove, COO and CTO. "We looked at the service we offer-comparison shopping-and knew that consumers were not just going to do this behind a desk. We knew they would be out, carrying a Web-enabled phone in a shopping mall and comparing prices from their phones. We knew we had to do it."

So, in a well-calculated effort to jump on the trend, the Morgan Hill, California, company decided to add wireless capabilities to its site-meaning customers can now browse, research and compare prices for a wide range of products straight from their Internet-enabled handheld devices or mobile phones. It works like this: First, users log on to the wireless section of the company's site. Then, either customers can download the site's wireless capability onto their PCs to use on their PDAs, or, if they're using a mobile phone, they can log on to http://wireless.smartshop.com, which can be bookmarked for later use. Users can then use a pared-down version of the Smartshop.com site any time-whether they're on the road, at the mall or anywhere else they'd like to search for desired products by category or keyword.

Smartshop.com also plans to add wireless-based m-commerce purchase capabilities later this year. "With our new wireless capability, users can search literally hundreds of online merchants-even those that are not currently accessible wirelessly on the Web-through one application that displays competitive offerings side by side," says Musgrove. "This avoids the unwieldy process of visiting multiple merchant sites, and it also gives consumers the power to either walk away or ask the merchant to match a competitive price when they are shopping in brick-and-mortar stores."

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the May 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Cut the Strings.

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