Almost a third (30%) of US shoppers now use a smartphone while in-store compared to 40% in the UK, according to a new report into ‘showrooming’.

On the face of it this would appear to be a behaviour that retailers would want to try to prevent, but in reality there’s very little that stores can do to curb the consumer use of smartphones.

Furthermore, separate data taken from the new Econsultancy/BuyDesire Mobile Marketing and Commerce Report found that retailers don’t actually see showrooming as a threat to their revenues.

The report found that although 67% of companies acknowledge that the number of customers using smartphones in-store is increasing, only 11% believe that showrooming poses a threat to their business.

Perceptions of in-store use of mobile and showrooming (retail respondents)

Even so, it’s up to retailers to find ways of turning this behaviour to their advantage and use mobile technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience so that consumers don’t feel the need to look elsewhere.

Read on to find out exactly how shoppers are using smartphones in-store, or for more information on this topic check out our articles looking at how retailers should respond to showrooming and why it’s important to offer free Wi-Fi in-store.

Types of behaviour

The report from Usablenet shows that those using their phones in-store are primarily messaging friends (84% US/ 90% UK) or using social networks (64% US/ 45% UK), however just over half use their device to access customer reviews online (51% US/ 57% UK).

This would suggest that roughly 15%-20% of all shoppers are checking online reviews when in-store, and it’s likely that this proportion will increase over time. Retailers can’t ignore this trend and should instead be looking for ways to direct shoppers to their own ecommerce sites in order to check reviews.

Evans Cycles currently places QR codes on all of its bikes that link directly to a mobile optimised site, so shoppers can read additional product information and reviews. Similarly, hardware retailer B&Q plans to use product barcodes as a way of directing shoppers to its website.

Another potential strategy is the use of kiosks that allow shoppers to browse the retailer’s website, which is becoming a more common in-store feature.

According to the research, a majority of smartphone owners prefer to make online purchases on larger devices such as a desktop or tablet (77% US/ 81% UK), therefore the use of kiosks tailors to this existing consumer behaviour.

Usablenet’s study involved observing customers in-store, interviews and a survey of 1,500 respondents on their use of smartphones in-store.