A person with a smart phone can scan a bar code in Best Buy or Macy’s, check the price and order the product from Amazon or Target on the spot. So, Amazon could receive an order from a customer that was stimulated to buy while in Best Buy.

This may revolutionize retailing and cause considerable consternation and ultimately dislocation for several players.

Remember when the Internet arrived and the savvy customer gained the power to check prices of all of the options? Especially for durables, that power led to price sensitivity and resulting price pressures.

The smart phone’s ability to scan SCAs and buy items from competitors on the spot adds a step function to this pressure. The driver is the availability and use of smart phones. Over 40% of all wireless phones are now smart phones, and this number is growing fast. A new report from Experian Simmons estimates that nearly 20% of smart phone users scan barcodes, and the same percentage makes purchases directly from their phones.

These numbers are enough to change the profitability of particular retailers significantly, either positively or negatively. And they are growing quickly. There will be a tipping point that probably has already occurred in some contexts, at which time there will be a dramatic change in the nature of retailing. There will be winners, but the strategy of some retailers to provide value added services will become problematic, and others will be forced out of business.

There are a host of implications. Let’s consider a few. Amazon and other retailers with a strong brand, e-commerce strength and following will benefit. Retailers with a cost advantage may benefit as price becomes more important. Those with a strong private label line with distinctive attributes will be affected less because the items will not be found elsewhere. National brands will have a harder time maintaining price discipline in the marketplace. Those like Apple with distribution control will be well-positioned.

The world has before exaggerated the impact of technology. The checkless society was a solid prediction a half century ago and the electric razor was expected to kill off safety razors. However, this time, smart phones may be the real thing.