Retailers Fight Showrooming
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.
Taking a broader view, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 25 percent of U.S. mobile phone users (46 percent of which own smartphones) used their phones over the 2011 holidays to look for a better deal while shopping in a store, while 38 percent called a friend for advice and 24 percent checked online product reviews. The trend is not all negative. The Pew survey further revealed that 35 percent of those shoppers ultimately bought from the store they were in compared with 19 percent who bought the product online and 8 percent who bought the item at another store.
Brick and Mortar Responds
Retailers are responding to “showrooming” in a variety of ways, ranging from matching online prices to stressing services you can’t get online to using social media to nurture and reward loyal customers.
“The impact on our business is exponential,” said Debbie Schaeffer, owner of Mrs. G TV & Appliance, which has been operating in Lawrenceville, N.J., for more than half a century. She estimates that online price-comparison shopping results in a loss in revenue of about 10 percent, but she is quick to point out that pricing is not the main problem. “We feel we can compete on price and more and more manufacturers are now policing MAP policies online,” she said. “The challenge is when consumers feel they don’t need to pay New Jersey sales tax. It puts us at a 7-percent disadvantage. It’s very unfair.”