Smart Retailers Are Embracing the Smartphone

Many brick-and-mortar retailers despise mobile technology but others are using it to their advantage

According to a study released today by a retail brand loyalty-building company, Aimia, in association with Columbia Business School, only six percent of people using a smartphone while in a store are showrooming. Showrooming is the practice of shoppers checking out a product at a brick-and-mortar retailer store, while making the purchase online through a website. The purchase is often made from a competitor at a lower price.

Retail executives have been uttering the word showrooming with as much contempt as they voice shoplifting. However, the trend might not be as common as they believe, says one of the report’s authors. Columbia professor David Rogers warns, “Basically, it (the study) shows we should dial back the panic a little bit. Don’t assume everybody is in that ‘exploiter’ category.” The study found that only about fifty percent of in store smartphone-equipped shoppers were checking prices. Most of the shoppers were looking for online coupons or reviews on the product of interest.

The comprehensive study surveyed 3,000 shoppers in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. The survey also discovered that only twenty-five percent of high-tech mobile shoppers were using deal-hunting apps such as RedLaser or EBay’s deal hunter. The measures for combating the notorious showroomers are also paying off for retailers. Discounts, perks and loyalty programs have enticed fifty percent of the respondents to say they were more likely to buy in stores.

The smartphone has become as much a tool for brick-and-mortar retailers fighting e-commerce, as it is a tool for e-commerce itself says Matthew Quint, a co-author of the Columbia study. The director of the school’s Center on Global Brand Leadership added, “Just anecdotally, when I’m in a store, I no longer think, ‘I’ll research this when I get home. My decision-making is solidified because the Internet is in my palm.”

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