Using smart-phones as a smart-tool at the cash register

Using smart-phones as a smart-tool at the cash regsiterThese days shopping without a loyalty card for anything from groceries to consumer electronics will result in a higher bill or missed rewards. But to take advantage of every loyalty offer you need a key chain that weighs as much as a shotput. That is until you digitize your loyalty cards with an App like CardStar. And that's just the beginning of how loyalty cards and your digital wallet might look in the future.

CardStar is a free app that is available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices that will allow you to use your phone's camera to store an electronic copy of your loyalty card, creating an image which can be scanned to redeem discounts and in some cases coupons, like those offered by Cellfire.

CardStar CEO Andy Miller told WalletPop that there is an exciting future to be found in apps that will work like a mobile wallet or the Sunday circular.

Digital Receipts: One of the most exciting items that we will likely see in a future version of CardStar is a digital receipt tied to our loyalty cards that would allow for easy retrieval in case of a return or warranty issue. This is a feature which CardStar is already testing at select retailers.

Sunday Circular: Another new feature that users will soon see is an iPad app that acts like the coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers, except with personalized offers. Users can then attach these savings to the loyalty card they've stored in their smart phones and redeem them with the smart phone CardStar app in the store either as a scannable coupon or as a discount tied directly to the store's loyalty card.

Real Time Check-ins: CardStar may soon be the easiest way to get a confirmed "real check-in" at your favorite store according to Miller. This would allow you to alert your friends to your location and possibly earn discounts. CardStar just announced that users can now auto-check-in when they use their loyalty card within CardStar when it is scanned at a specific store, removing the need to check in with a separate app.

Mobile payments: It's possible that in the near future you might be able to make a payment at the grocery store using your phone without a VISA iPhone case, but it won't be as quick as you want or in the way you might think. Until there is a standard for mobile payments, and a company like Walmart gets behind the practice, don't expect to see apps for making payments. That said, Miller points out that some stores like Stop & Shop allow customers to put up to $50 on their smart-phone-hosted loyalty card so that they can make a payment if they leave their wallet at home. More stores could, in theory, offer similar services to kick-start mobile payments.

What's holding these ideas back? For one thing the lack of standard scanning systems. While Target has outfitted all of its checkouts with advanced scanners capable of doing the job, some retailers use up to 43 different types of point-of-sale scanners, making it remarkably challenging for an outfit such as CardStar to accommodate all of them. In the end it will be consumer demand that drives the adoption of mobile wallet technology and new features.

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