The impact of mobile on retailing extends well beyond the in-store experience.
Much of the current research understandably focuses on the effects of "showrooming," when a customer shops at a physical retailer but then buys via mobile either online or from a competing store.
And there’s plenty of research exploring the impacts of the practice. For example, 40 percent of mobile users use their device to price-shop while in the store, according to ExactTarget. Other research from GroupM this week also addressed the practice in a new report that similarly found that 44 percent of customers use mobile to shop in-store.
The study also examined in-store behavior, finding that almost half (45%) of customers said they would leave the store to buy online when the online price was 2.5% lower. At 5% lower, 60% said they would leave.
But outside the physical store, some different behaviors may be in play.
In its 2012 Channel Preference Survey, ExactTarget found that a third of consumers use text messaging constantly throughout the day with fewer (29%) using email, said R.J. Talyor, vice president, mobile at ExactTarget. Many of these can be messages intended to influence buying behavior, well before a person enters a store.
The change in preferences in how consumers receive messages has changed over the last few years, with the choice of getting them by email down from 66% in 2008 to 45% today. Text messaging had the opposite trend, increasing from 16% four years ago to 36% today, according to Talyor. This makes it appear that email is out and text messaging is in.
However, when it comes to permission-based messages, there’s a very different picture. The percentages of those who prefer permission-based messaging via email grew from 72% four years ago to 77% today while those who prefer them by text messages grew from 1% to 5% -- a large-percentage growth, but a small base.
The point is that while in-store mobile actions and reactions are one part of the shopping equation, other messaging methods are still highly relevant -- both email and texting.
Another insight into the showrooming phenomenon comes from research being released in September by Foresee, which surveyed more than 4,000 consumers who had visited the top 20 retailers’ mobile site or used their app within a two-week period.
An advance look at some of the findings shows that many (68%) used the retailers’ mobile site, while a third (32%) used the app. And by device, two-thirds used a mobile phone and a quarter used a tablet. The top use was looking up product details, followed by looking up price information
A key finding in the research as it relates to showrooming is where the devices were being used. The research found that 59% of the mobile devices were being used from home and 16% while preparing to visit a store.
This means that the actual showrooming may not be as significant in scope at the physical store, since the activity of shopping via mobile is not location-required. It can be done anywhere.
“Showrooming is happening but it’s not happening at breakneck speed,” said Larry Freed, president/CEO of Foresee. “Retailers need to be aware of it but realize it’s just another method of competiveness,” he said.
The study also found that the top influence for someone to visit the mobile site or use the app is familiarity with the brand, with the least influence being a search engine.
Mobile takes shopping well beyond the boundaries of the brick-and-mortar. Retailers who focus too much on the in-store mobile actions may be too late, both in time and location.