Imagine walking through a shopping district after hours, pointing your cell phone through a window at something you want to buy—and making your purchase on the spot. Many of our nation’s retailers will soon be using barcode scanning technology to allow people to window shop with their cell phones.

It’s one way retailers are strengthening the link between their physical stores and the Internet, while using a high-tech trend to make shopping easier for consumers.

The New York Times recently published an article about how some grocers are even offering phone applications that tell shoppers where to find the flour, sugar and that hard-to-find ginger sauce. Some are even offering real-time coupons that trigger an alert when your grocery cart rolls into the desired aisle.

Before you can get your hands on these coupons and deals, you have to be willing to download a phone app as well as give your consent to being tracked electronically while you shop. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a smart phone to do it either. Seattle-based company JAGTAG claims that right now, almost 90% of all phone owners in the States can use mobile barcodes.

Many clothing retailers are just starting to use ScanLife technology, which came out two years ago. Check out their YouTube video here. It allows people to scan bar codes on merchandise and obtain details about the clothes through videos. I.B.M. is now testing a product called Presence, which allows retailers to detect a shopper through his or her phone as soon as they enter a store. The shoppers get coupons, and the retailer can track their spending habits and browsing time.

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