Almost a quarter (24%) of UK shoppers used their mobile while in-store to compare prices in the run-up to Christmas, according to a new survey from Foolproof.
The process, known as ‘showrooming’, means that retailers have to come up with new ways to encourage customers to make a purchase in-store.
Alarmingly for some retailers, the survey of 1,000 adults also found that 40% of showroomers, or one in 10 of all shoppers, bought items from a competitor after comparing prices on their phone.
Unsurprisingly the habit is more prevalent among younger shoppers, with 39% of 18-39 year olds actively engaging in showrooming over Christmas compared to just 18% of shoppers over the age of 40.
But it’s not like the increase in showrooming was unexpected. We’ve previously blogged a survey which showed that 42% of smartphone owners go online to check prices in-store.
Furthermore, a survey published in November by eBay Local found that 80% of retailers expected to be impacted by consumers checking prices in-store and on average expected to see sales drop by 5% as a result. Yet just 12% of retailers had a strategy in place to combat it.
What can retailers do to combat showrooming?
Several major retailers in the US did take steps to try and limit the impact of showrooming by embracing consumer use of mobile in-store.
Best Buy ran a price match guarantee during the holiday shopping season, promising to meet the prices of major online retailers in-store.
Similarly, Target used a QR code display that allowed shoppers to buy the top 20 toys online using their smartphone, thereby avoiding the long queues. Purchases were then shipped free-of-charge.
The use of mobile technology in-store is one of the central themes discussed in our report How The Internet Can Save The High Street, which also looks at topics including in-store wi-fi, 'reserve and collect', in-store kiosks and 'pop-up shops'.
Free in-store Wi-Fi
Our report looks at whether retailers should offer free in-store Wi-Fi to allow shoppers to access the mobile web.
On the face of it, it seems stupid to give customers the power to access a competitor’s prices, but in fact the benefits outweigh the potential negatives if done correctly.
The fact is that customers will access the internet using 3G even if they don’t have Wi-Fi, but by offering them access retailers can at least retain an element of control.
According to an OnDeviceResearch survey, 74% of respondents would be happy for a retailer to send a text or email with promotions while they’re using in-store Wi-Fi.
For example, in return for free internet Tesco requires shoppers to enter Clubcard details, which gives the retailer ability to target you with offers and discounts.
Similarly, House of Fraser ran a free Wi-Fi promotion in conjunction with O2 that aimed to drive up incremental sales through targeted promotions.
Another tactic that retailers can use is placing QR codes on product labels and around the store that link to product information online.
As well as looking for prices shoppers often go online to research information about their purchase, so retailers can make it easier for them to find product reviews and ratings using a QR code.
For example, Evans Cycles places codes on every bike in-store so shoppers can link straight to the product page to order online, find more information or compare it to other bikes.