Back in December, Amazon angered retailers with its Price Check App, which allows consumers to compare prices for items while in-store and buy them at a lower price online or via their mobile devices. Since then, this process has become known as "showrooming" and new data from various researchers shows why the practice is of growing concern to brick-and-mortar merchants.
"Several researchers have surveyed the number of US mobile phone users who have comparison-shopped via phone while in-store," reported eMarketer.com today. "Their research has found a comparison-shopping rate ranging from 59% of US smartphone owners (InsightExpress, 2011) to 25% of US mobile phone owners (Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 2012)."
Meanwhile, offering some reassurance to brick-and-mortar retailers, ForeSee Results found that from 2009 to 2011, shoppers are more likely to access the website for the store they're actually in, rather than a competitor's website (see below graph).
A February 2012 ClickIQ survey found that 45.9% of U.S. online shoppers research products in-store (not necessarily using smartphones*) before eventually buying the product online (see below graph).
*These respondents may have just gone into the store to touch and try the product, for example.
It's not all bad news, though. In spite of the ability to buy the same product cheaper online, many consumers still prefer to walk out with the product. eMarketer.com adds that Pew found 35% of respondents bought from the store location where they were comparison shopping, 19% bought online and only 8% went to another store.
To enhance the in-store experience, retailers begin to arm staff with mobile tools and go "omnichannel."
Advertising Age reported today that a number of major retailers (including Sears, Lowe's, The Gap, Nordstrom, Macy's and Neiman Marcus) are equipping staff with smartphones, tablets and mobile apps to provide better customer service. They are also installing interactive retail displays in-store to allow customers access to product information they are used to finding online.
"Neiman Marcus, for example, is testing NM Service, an iPhone app designed to connect customers with their favorite sales associates," wrote AdAge's Kunur Patel. "When the shopper walks into a store, NM Service alerts the designated associates. With access to purchase history, the salesperson can then text the customer a message, such as 'I found the perfect scarf for the suit you bought last week.'"
In a separate AdAge article today, specifically examining department stores' omnichannel strategy, Jeanine Poggie writes: "Retailers have spent the past several years investing in e-commerce, mobile shopping and social outreach, but by incorporating all those elements into a compelling store environment, they may have finally found a way to reclaim shoppers forfeited to Amazon."