Mobile tools can counter "showrooming"

25 April 2013

LONDON: Mobile phones can help reduce the risk that "showrooming" poses to retailers by increasing brand interaction with consumers and turning them from browsers into buyers, a study has argued.

The Mobile Life report from research firm TNS, based on responses from 38,000 people in 43 countries, found that 33% of participants visited stores to test products before buying them. Some 21% used their mobile phone when engaging in this activity.

This, the report suggested, created a "major opportunity" for brands to reach consumers in a buying environment, as it meant people were open to engaging with brands while in stores.

Matthew Froggatt, chief development officer at TNS, noted the threat to traditional retailers from digital technology, but added that "there is also opportunity to mitigate that risk for brands that get their customer engagement right."

More than 20% of smartphone owners in the study expressed an interest in receiving mobile coupons when shopping, for example, while 13% were open to using a "virtual sales assistant", which would help answer questions in-store about a particular product.

"Rather than seeing mobile as a threat to in-store sales, brands and retailers must embrace it as the most immediate and personalised way to engage shoppers to ensure they don't leave empty-handed," said Froggatt.

Showrooming consumers are generally looking for reassurance on price and product suitability, and they find this in various ways, including user reviews, social media, family and friends and sales staff.

An integrated approach meeting customer needs at all touchpoints is thus essential, the report said.

Brands and retailers also need to make buying in-store the convenient option, said Froggatt. "Anything that saves the consumer time, money or angst will help reduce the flow of people out of the shop to purchase elsewhere."

"In understanding exactly how consumers are using their mobile in-store, brands and retailers can improve their own offering – whether through apps, mobile coupons or simply greater provision of information - and begin to nudge shoppers back towards the tills."

Data sourced from TNS Global; additional content by Warc staff