The rise and rise of ‘showrooming’ and what brands should do in response


By Chris Lee

Almost half (47 per cent) of smartphone owners are now using their mobile devices to ‘showroom’ and browse for an item whilst out shopping, according to the latest eCustomerServiceIndex (eCSI) results from IMRG and eDigitalResearch. Smartphone ownership in the UK now stands at around 70 per cent, representing more than two thirds of consumers who are now walking into stores and bringing their mobile devices with them.

According to the study, smartphone owners are also increasingly using their mobiles to read customer or product reviews when in-store (47 per cent) as well as price checking other retailer’s websites (39 per cent). Around a third (29 per cent) of smartphone owners have also used their mobile to purchase or order a product if an item was out of stock in store.

Create a fully mobile experience for customers

The report’s authors claim that the results highlight the growing relationship between store and mobile channels with an increasing number of consumers using their mobile device to help enhance their in-store experience. With one in five (18 per cent) of smartphone owners surveyed claiming to have already purchased a product via their mobile if they deemed the queue times in store to be too long, more strategic thinking is required by retailers, the authors argued.

“These results highlight just how important mobile is now to the entire customer journey. Just 18 months ago, retailers were debating the risks involved with a growing showrooming trend amongst consumers, worried that the introduction of price comparison in-store would affect bottom lines,” said Derek Eccleston, Commercial Director at eDigitalResearch. “The latest eCSI results highlight that this is a trend that is here to stay – consumers increasingly want to, and expect to be able to, use their mobile when out shopping, and not just to purchase from competitors. Therefore retailers now need to ensure that their in-store experience is also mobile optimised with simple steps such as offering free WiFi, making sure their entire customer experience is as good as it possibly can be.”

Flexibility is key

While making his 2014 digital trends predictions here on NMK, Mike Flynn, CEO of digital marketing specialist, Fast Web Media, said that this year would see more e-tailers using big data to learn more about their customers, personalise offers and predict market trends. 

“With a wealth of information available online, and an increasing trend in showrooming, consumers are now able to compare products, services and prices anytime and anywhere, making it harder for retailers to retain customer loyalty,” he argued.

The eCSI study certainly backs up this argument, finding that almost half (46 per cent) of smartphone shoppers who have made a purchase via their mobile device are opting for a click and collect delivery option, suggesting that consumers are increasingly using their devices outside the home, making spontaneous purchases when they’re already out and about, and collecting on the go.

Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at IMRG said that the idea of showrooming has been part of the shopping journey for many since the early days of e-commerce, where savvy online shoppers would research in-store and buy goods cheaper on the Web. The evolution of the mobile consumer over the past few years has created a new breed of customer, confirmed by the latest results from the eCSI survey, which not only reveals that convenience is a key factor for smartphone shoppers but click and collect is becoming an important growth driver for mobile commerce.

“In fact, our Quarterly Benchmarking data reveals that sales via smartphones and tablet devices now account for 27 per cent of the UK online retail market, having doubled over the past year,” Spooner added.  “During the same period click and collect sales for multichannel retailers rose to almost one in five online sales (19 per cent).  It is clear that mobile has a key part to play in the multichannel retail environment. With the growth in sales via smartphones continuing into triple digits percentage-wise, the increasing power of m-retail should not be ignored.” 

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