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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.

QR codes

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.

David Moth

Published 8 January, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Tim Holmes

Tim Holmes, Managing Director at McMahon & Holmes Ltd

I can genuinely say I am guilty of Showrooming, as I did this on a number of occasion during December, especially when looking at Electrical goods.

I also performed this action whilst in a Comet Store in Halifax during their closing down "None Sale". Had they price matched me there and then, I am sure they would of got a sale rather than none at all.

A near Price match initiaive would in my eyes be the only way to maximise a sale in store.

over 3 years ago

Jeremy Hollow

Jeremy Hollow, Founder at Listen & Learn Research & Outtaskers Ltd.

Hi Dave. Interesting article, thanks.

You concentrate on the role of showrooming to compare prices in-store. Does the term only relate to price comparisons?

I was wondering what your thoughts were on the role showrooming might have on other aspects of the buying process. It would be interesting to see what influence it has on other shopping missions.

Many thanks

Jeremy

over 3 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Price matching is a good tactic, and it's really important to have well trained sales staff too, but I think what goes around, comes around.

Whilst a customer might find a product cheaper elsewhere, the same is happening in another competitor's store somewhere.

over 3 years ago

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George, Project Manager at Penna

I do it all the time. Isn't it simply being a canny consumer?

over 3 years ago

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Richard Beaumont

What about attempting to block 3G signals in the store?

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Jeremy, I think in general showrooming refers to comparing prices, but it could also include any type of product research on mobile, such as looking to see if similar products are available from that brand or retailer.

over 3 years ago

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Ketharaman Swaminathan

We keep hearing so much about 'showrooming'. Given that over 90% of retail sales still happen in brick-and-mortar stores, it'd be interesting to know the percentage of the opposing camp, namely ROBO-shoppers, who Research Online but Buy Offline. I won't be surprised if there isn't a much larger pot of gold awaiting companies that provide online tools to help in ROBO shopping. Google Search, Comparison Shopping and almost every other online tool I know of only display results from e-tailers selling products online, which aren't of much use for the vast majority of people who still buy in physical stores.

over 3 years ago

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B Gamble

I have also done this. I was going to buy something from Jessops but checked prices online and decided against it. Look where Jessops are now.

over 3 years ago

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