Every company now seems to feel like they should have a Twitter account and an iPhone app. Where they were once hesitant about going online they are now desperate to appear cool by mastering the latest social networking craze or spending all their money on a fancy website. Having refused to get online until people stopped coming into their shops they are now reaching out via the web and learning fun phrases like Web 2.0, the Tipping Point and Crowd Sourcing.
Both House of Frasier and Ikea have released versions of their 2010 catalogs as iPhone apps. The apps let you browse through what is available in store although it is not actually possible to buy products via the Ikea one (Ikea only deliver to certain areas so online sales aren't their strong point). A lot of the items these companies sell would need to be seen in person (you wouldn't buy a sofa without seeing it) but the apps aim to give customers 'inspiration'.
Some have questioned the usefulness of a phone application when it comes to selling furniture. Bill Westerman, CTO of Create with Context believes that it is unlikely to be cost effective: "The enormous cost of development won’t always be financially sensible. The aim of any app is to tap into customer loyalty, keep shoppers interested in the brand and ultimately make money."
Most people in the UK wont have the ability to use an iPhone application so perhaps retailers would be better off trying to make a really great mobile site. Mobile sites are getting more hits than ever before as more and more phones become able to access the web. A great mobile site would need to be accessible to those with slower connections or at least have high and low bandwidth versions.