Sunday, March 27, 2005

More Virtual Amazon Showroom

I've talked about applications that make the physical world a virtual Amazon showroom, but this article does a pretty job explaining how.

I will be posting an interview with ScoutPal this coming week.

From Business 2.0 Mag. The Great Giveaway .

Amazon, eBay, and Google are opening up their billion-dollar data troves. Here's why they're doing it -- and how you can take advantage.

For the near term, the biggest benefit to Amazon of letting folks like Anderson and Vavrille tinker with its platform is that it gets experimental R&D for free. "We can try to build all the applications for sellers ourselves," Vermeulen says, "or we can build a platform and let others build them." Adds Bezos, "Right now we just want to get people to use the guts of Amazon in ways that surprise us."

For Amazon, there's some evidence to support that logic. Of the 65,000 people and companies that have signed up to use Amazon's free goodies, about a third have been tinkering with software tools that help Amazon's 800,000 or so active sellers.

One of the most clever is ScoutPal , a service that turns cell phones into mobile bar-code scanners. "It's like a Geiger counter for books," founder Dave Anderson says. He came up with the idea a couple of years ago when his wife, Barbara, who sells books on Amazon, would lug home 50 pounds of titles from garage sales, only to discover that she'd paid too much for many of them to make any money. Anderson wrote an application that works in tandem with an attachable bar-code scanner. Barbara either scans in books' bar codes or punches in their 10-digit ID numbers. Then she can pull down the latest Amazon prices for the books and calculate her likely profit margin -- before she pays for the inventory. Anderson says his wife's sales have since tripled to about $100,000 a year, and her profit margins have jumped from 50 percent to 85 percent. And he's now bringing in six figures too: ScoutPal has more than 1,000 subscribers, each paying $10 a month.

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