Is Showrooming The New Normal?

by , Oct 10, 2013, 12:41 PM
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A couple of consumer surveys this week suggest that people using their phones in-store for comparison shopping (A.K.A., a form of "showrooming") is becoming commonplace. Yesterday I reported an Accenture study that found a third of people say the primary purpose for their using a cell phone in-store is to compare prices. And today mobile marketing company Vibes rolled out its 2013 iteration of the Mobile Consumer Survey with even starker results. This poll of over 1000 mobile users found 44% of people using phones in-store for price comparisons or buying on a frequent basis. Another 26% say they showroom sometimes.

Interestingly, consumers seem aware that there is a contest on for their loyalty across channels. When asked about the tactics they see retailers using to combat showrooming, 59% noted price match guarantees, while 51% point to noticeable in-store incentives and sales as a common countermeasure. Only 37% saw free shipping as a way that retailers were addressing the challenge.

While some analysts have portrayed showrooming as a relatively benign phenomenon, this survey suggests that having mobile access to the Web in the store is impacting retail in multiple ways. When asked what action they took after doing a phone look-up in the store, 37% of consumers said they used the online quote to get a better deal from the brick-and-mortar retailer. Only 10% of respondents said they simply bought the item in-store at the asked price.

Shopper behavior has changed rapidly. Compared to last year’s survey, when only 33% said they had used a device in-store to compare prices at a competitor, 49% said they have this year. And when it comes to actually making a purchase at a competitor’s site when in the store, the share of respondents has multiplied from 9% to 23%.

Clearly, Amazon is the main beneficiary of showrooming for now. Among those who did phone look-ups, 31% said they ended up buying the item at Amazon, and 8% went to a competitor’s Web site to seal the deal. Only 6% ended up at a competitor’s physical store to make the purchase.

Consumers also understand that mobility is impacting their shopping experience. When asked about how the in-store shopping experience has changed for them in the last two years, 36% said they are using their phone more in the store, and 30% are relying on the phone more to make shopping decisions. Interestingly, consumers also see this as an opportunity for them to establish better relationships with their trusted brands (30%) and get more personalized service through loyalty programs (26%). A smaller percentage of people (21%), however, noted that store personnel had become more helpful in recent years.

Not all is lost for the retailer, of course. People are also using their phones to connect with the virtual version of the store they are in, with 40% saying they used their device to look up products at the retailer’s own site (double last year). This metric suggests that retailer efforts to pull people into their multichannel environment are having some impact. Still, the 25% who said they used that retailer’s app in-store was up only slightly from 17% last year. Apps are still a channel for the brand loyalists, and we suspect people are already becoming weary of app clutter. Looking up product reviews (49%) is one of the chief attractions of using the device in-store.

Users give retailers mixed reviews when it comes to the degree of personalized messaging and functionality they experience. About 66% of users feel they get well-targeted messages only sometimes of rarely. Still, 89% of consumers themselves feel that they are more likely to respond and opt-in to an offer if they feel it was personalized. And when it comes to specific aspects of personalized service, 80% felt that the retailer recognizing their product preferences (sizes, brands, categories) was most important.

If it hadn’t been clear already, the mobile device has transformed shopping across multiple layers. Its impact at the retail level is experiential, and that means retailers need to rethink the entire shopping environment. 

2 comments on "Is Showrooming The New Normal?".

  1. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging
    commented on: October 11, 2013 at 6:05 a.m.
    Re, "the primary purpose for their using a cell phone in-store is to compare prices". This is the sort of result that makes me doubt researchers live on the same planet as the rest of us. No, the primary purpose of using a cell phone in-store is talking - I see this all the time - but I have never seen anyone use a phone to compare the price of baked beans. Then social media and texting and listening to stuff on headphones, and maybe then we get to things like shopping.
  2. Pamela DeLoatch from The Everyday Shopper Blog
    commented on: October 11, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.
    I frequently use my smartphone in stores to compare prices and to check reviews. In Barnes and Noble, I'll look at reviews and when I see that a book is available for 50% less on Amazon and, thanks to Amazon Prime, I can get it for free in two days, I'm much more likely to buy it online (if the book in the brick and mortar store is more than $10). I will check reviews at Target to see which fan is rated most reliable. (And to see if Amazon or Best Buy have a better price) True, I don't check the price of baked beans-- I actually don't check supermarket prices while I'm in the store, but I'll happily look up just about anything else. I agree that it's a new way of life, researching on the go in an effort to make the best decision.

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