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Retailers Fight Showrooming

Arsenal includes basic strategies and social media

April 25, 2012 By Bob Ankosko
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A customer walks into your store and heads for the TV displays. He’s on a mission and spends the better part of an hour drilling the TV salesman on the pros and cons of a half-dozen big-screen sets, moving from one TV to the next. Eddie doesn’t hide the fact that he’s ready to buy and narrows his search to a 50-inch LCD.

He thanks the salesman for his time, and as he’s walking away pulls out his iPhone and slips into a corner to see if he can find a better price online. Amazon has the lowest price but the model is also on sale and in stock at nearby competitor. Eddie walks out and heads to the store just down the road to buy the TV.

Price shopping has been around as long as retailing but the practice of “showrooming”—a customer checking out products in the store and using his smartphone to search for a better deal, in some cases scanning barcodes—is a relatively new and growing trend that’s making brick-and-mortar retailers nervous.

Smartphone Shopping on the Rise
The mobile Web, and smartphone apps in particular, have transformed shopping, making it easier than ever to gather product information and price shop on the go. “We’re seeing an increase in price-comparison shopping and those apps are getting easier to use,” said Linda Barrabee, NPD’s research director for connected intelligence. Recent NPD data shows that three-quarters of consumers use the mobile web and shopping websites, while just over half (55 percent) use shopping apps like ShopSavvy and Amazon’s PriceCheck, which let them scan barcodes, take pictures, and say or type in product names to get information and find lower prices at local retailers or online.

It’s the in-store price shopping that retailers find most worrisome. InsightEpxress examined mobile shopping during the last three Christmas seasons and found that the number of smartphone owners who used their phones to search for a better price while in a store quadrupled between 2009 and 2011; 59 percent did so in 2011 compared with 40 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2009.

Looking specifically at showrooming, a recent ClickIQ survey found that 46 percent of online shoppers used smartphones and other means to research products while in a store, only to ultimately buy online. Likewise, Foresee surveys conducted between 2009 and 2011 found that the number of smartphone users accessing competitive websites while in a store jumped from 25 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2011. On the positive side, 65 percent of those shoppers reported accessing the website of the store they were shopping in, up from 52 percent in 2009.

 
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